My review of the Encyclopedia is printed in Books for Keeps no.163 and I there indicate some of the main elements whose treatment needs to be determined if a literary reference book is to serve its users in an authoritative and reliably consistent fashion. When the book is edited on the scale of the present one, one would assume that the editor will determine a series of templates to ensure that his contributors will turn in articles that follow such articulated principles. One would also assume that, in this case, the rather grand editorial team will check in detail that all submissions are accurate, comprehensible and carefully geared-in to related topics elsewhere in the work. (That involves [a] checking the agreement of data in the related articles, and [b] introducing cross-references so that the user may gain full information on the context of whatever inquiry is being made.)
While many articles in the Encyclopedia do encapsulate the sort of information that will help the user, this seems to have occurred by happy accident rather than through the operation of thoroughgoing editorial control. Perceptive users will often find themselves asking whether any such informed control existed over the mass of material and its interrelationships within the four volumes, observing problems that extend from the existence of many literal and substantive errors to a raft of structural weaknesses.
Given the time available, it is impossible to compile a complete roster of these weaknesses and the following synopsis must be taken on trust as merely giving indicative examples of the various kinds of failings that are found promiscuously throughout the work. (Some notable instances were included in the printed review.) My analysis proceeds from the noting of simple errors to discursive comments and examples of more complex issues – complex often because either ignorance or muddled thinking within a contribution require almost a short essay for their exposure.
It is generally recognised that standards of proof-reading, even in university presses, have plummeted – and indeed, I have heard it expressed that in these anti-elitist times we are allowed to be more relaxed about orthography and grammatical structures (even though proof-correction on electronic terminals may well be a lot cheaper than in the old days of hot-metal typesetting). Thus it may be thought permissible to have occasional mis-spellings etc in the body of so large an undertaking. What is more surprising is to find many mistakes in the author / title citations and in other proper nouns which are germane to the subject of the work: Anderson’s [1. 58]; Asbjrnsen [4.91]; Atwell [2.250]; Brinks [3.353]; Grahame Greene [3.250]; Halliwell-Phillips [4.91]; Make Way for the Ducklings [3.249]; Manning Saunders [2.315]; Melton Meltzer [3.161]; Prince Prigo [2.399]; Stan Puer [1.187]; Strange and Surprising Adventures [1.393]; Straporala [2.47}; Streatfield (inevitably) [4.235]; Tinkerbelle [2.44]; Worpswerde [4.123]
2. Direct factual errors:
Goody Two-Shoes is dated 1766 here and in the illustration caption (and mention is later made of her being charged – interestingly – with “witcraft”). In the entry on John Newbery the book is dated correctly 1765 but also, apparently, 1757 and she twice appears differently hyphenated as Goody-Two Shoes.
Lewis, Naomi did not write a poem called “Footprints in the Air”; her “Mardi Gras Cat” was part of a larger collection of her poems with that title; and if she has written “a number of fictional works” it would be interesting to know their titles.
Masefield, whose dates are given as 1878-1967, is said to have been appointed poet laureate in 1930 “when he was only thirty-two”.
Movable Books includes a very wonky description of how a harlequinade is constructed.
Nonfiction misdates Orbis Pictus 1657, believes that Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories falls within its ambit, and gives a rather marginal example of Newbery’s vigorous activity in this field. (Nor was Fab Hists published by John Marshall in 1786 as his entry avers.)
Paget, Francis: no need to specify the quote about “selfish temper” as coming from the second ed. of Katzekopfs ; it was also in the first.
Puffins emerged from discussions between Allen Lane and Noel Carrington and the commencement of Puffin Picture Books (mostly non-fiction) with the latter as editor. Puffin Story Books with Eleanor Graham as editor followed soon after. The faulty chronology is repeated in the otherwise sensible entry on Graham.
Robinsonnades confusingly tells us that the first English translation of Wyss’s book was called The Swiss Family Robinson , but illustrates it, correctly, as The Family Robinson Crusoe (nor indicates here or elsewhere that the translation was from the French). This article also misdates Robinson the Younger as 1781 (although 1788 is correctly given in the article on Campe). If the contributor was referring to a translation said to have been made by the author himself it would be nice to be told (with a confirming reference).
Ronskley is not exactly a literal since Ronksley is misleadingly called thus throughout his entry. Fortunately either spelling keeps him in the same place in the alphabetic sequence.
Tommy Thumb’s Song Book. Since this is (for me) the greatest of all English children’s books I grieve that its rubric omits “Pretty”, which should be its third word. The poor little book is very hard done by since it appears thus elsewhere in the work and also as Tommy Thumb’s Pocket Song Book .
3. Indirect errors and questionable emphases
As has been mentioned above, the critic has a difficulty in explaining objections to arguments or statements which are questionable if not wrong, especially since these may be tangled up with the inadequate editing of complementary articles. Here is a sample relating to the treatment of the Orbis Sensualium Pictus , a work which crops up frequently in the Encyclopedia (there are 17 references to it in the index together with 8 – some duplicated – to its author, who is variably referred to as either Johann or John Amos Comenius. The index has failed to pick up a reference under Bertuch in Volume 1.) Here goes:-
a) there is a brief description of the book under Books of Instruction, but no cross-references to other articles;
b) there is a longer description under Comenius where there is the implication that the first edition was published in 1656 rather than 1658. (Almost certainly that mistake comes from a too hasty interpretation of a passage in John Sadler’s edition of the book [which I edited].) One must also question first the optimistic statement that “even the most ignorant could use it”, second, the spelling of “tranquility”, and third, the titling of the book here given as “ Janua Linguarum Reserata (The Gate of Languages Unlocked)” for this will appear triply altered in (c) below as “ Janus [sic] linguarum reserata (The Gate to Languages Unlocked)”. The only reference supplied at the end of the article is to the entry under title, which is:-
c) another brief description of the book’s aims and (very briefly) its organisation, followed by the remarks that its information and illustrations “inevitably became out of date”, that it “lasted longer in Germany than in England” and that “an American edition illustrated by Alexander Anderson appered in 1810”. What that summary skips over is that the book ran pretty well unchanged in England up to 1777 and then engendered several inferior imitations, that its success in Germany was enormous, giving rise to a huge succession of imitations, none of which are fully dealt with elsewhere in the Encyclopedia , and that the American edition was based on the 1777 English edition with only just over a third of its 156 engravings being done by Anderson. This article carries no cross references at all and neither here nor elsewhere does the bibliography include mention of Kurt Pilz’s immense and very detailed Die Ausgaben des Orbis Sensualium Pictus (Nuremberg, 1967).
d) Most other articles that include mention of the Orbis Pictus do not refer the reader to the main entries but it is worth noting that only in the discussion of the book in the (generally frightful) article on Illustrations do we get the fairly important information that Comenius adopted for his work the ingenious plan of numbering elements in his illustrations which were then linked to his bilingual text. Unfortunately that necessary addition to the OP bundle is vitiated by the contributor then giving a completely wrong title to the first English edition.
None of these articles mentions the US Orbis Pictus Award for Nonfiction – nor is that indexed or included in the lists of prizewinners in Volume 4.
Illustrations: the entry (and others)
That clutch of examples, where error is compounded with sloppy description and with inadequate referencing and citation, must stand for a multitude of other instances. The frightfulness of the eight columns on Illustrations – which is where the astonishing remark about the Kelmscott Press appeared that I mentioned in the BfK article – is impossible to summarize simply because it is so badly organised that it escapes one’s grasp. In addition to Kelmscott though here are some salient points which reflect on the editing of the Encyclopedia as a whole:-
a) meaning? “illustrations can be interpreted both as creative answers to the possibilities and limitations of graphic techniques and as the stylistic expression of a movement in the fine arts…”;
b) “until the end of the 17th century, woodcuts predominated in illustrated children’s books” – what books? one must ask, since such things had hardly been invented – and the sentence goes on to introduce an erroneous view of the chapbook trade (erroneous regularly throughout the Encyclopedia too);
c) please contrast: “After 1700 the woodcut was increasingly replaced by copperplate engraving and etching” [not so] with the statement three paragraphs later: “In the 19th century, engravings on copper and steel plates gradually replaced woodcuts and wood engravings” [also not so – but what form of logic is occurring in the writer’s head?];
d) William Blake did not produce “hand colored copperplate engravings”;
e) metal engravers work on plates, not blocks;
f) one paragraph, too long to quote, ostensibly about wood engraving, is little short of idiotic and is followed by two more, mostly about German illustrators, which bear no relationship to whatever historic argument is being attempted;
g) for most of its early life Der Struwwelpeter was printed from the wood, not lithgraphed;
h) Edmund Evans’s nineteenth century printing could not have used “the three-color process” which had not then been invented;
i) much of the final four columns is given over to lists of titles under various heads with no meaningful comments – which raises the question of how far lists of this kind (frequently appearing elsewhere) are checked against entries and the contents of entries in the rest of the work. Here we are told that Jenny Nyström [Swedish] and Erik Werenskiold [Norwegian] “produced a large amount of fine children’s book illustrations” but they do not figure among the entries and are not mentioned in the “country” entries (where Norway and Sweden are lumped into a single entry under the rubric “Nordic Countries” – what’s more with no reference at the alphabetical point at which you might look to find them).
The entry on Toy Books goes wrong almost from the start, the writer not knowing the origins of the term (in both the UK and the USA) which is much earlier than she dates it. She then does not hold closely to its application to a certain form of picture book so that her inclusion of the Routledge editions of Greenaway (wrongly dating Under the Window ) and of Crane’s “Baby’s Own” books introduces works that are not toy books. And similarly her final section on novelty books should be so titled (or else passed over to the Movable entry) for these too are not toy books as understood by the contemporary trade.
This method of assessing general entries could be extended indefinitely (“Picture Books” shares much of the incoherence of “Illustrations” coupled with a perverse mode of definition that tends to exclude much material because it does not fit the writer’s preferences. The article on the United Kingdom is shameful in its construction, in its omissions, and in its devotion to our contemporary obsession with “constructing the reader”, bourgeois values, colonialism etc.)
Fairy tales and folk tales (by the Editor-in-Chief)
Perhaps I am being perverse in expecting that an entry under this rubric will concentrate on what might also be called traditional tales. I would look for a systematic account of “the oral tradition”, the problems of converting the vernacular into print, the beginnings and development of fairytale publishing in Europe (with the difficulties of translating “oral” tales into English), the publishing of English-language tales here and in North America, the growth of research on tales from other language areas, the classification of tales, the interpretation of tales etc etc.
That does not happen in any definable way, for the Editor has decided to include within his brief an entirely separate category: the Kunstmärchen or invented fairy tale, which ought to have a section of its own. He does begin with a very muddled account of the early history of traditional tales (and has a very insecure grasp of what publishers were doing in England), but he engages with few of the linked topics noted above and spends the second half of his article running through lists of what authors have written, from Catherine Sinclair (!) to contemporary feminist truck. There is no help given to the reader who would hope to glean some view of the nature of folklore in this article and the pathetic reading list of nine disparate items offers no guidance.
What must be said though is that the references (as so often in the book) point you to “titles of works and biographies of figures mentioned in the article”. That can involve a lot of leg-work through the volumes – and some things may not be there – but the “titles of works” raises another editorial problem. Many of the best-known tales (how selected?) do have their own entries – about thirty of them, intermingled with nursery rhymes (Jack Horner follows Jack and the Beanstalk) – but no set treatment of them is given, although they lend themselves to such. Sometimes you get a printed source and a Tale-type number, almost always you get a precis of the tale, and very occasionally you get an account of different treatments of the text by writers or by illustrators – a very fruitful field of which the best advantage is not taken.
It’s a bit mystifying to find a short entry on Books of Instruction and a long one on Nonfiction (with no cross reference from the first to the second, nor to anything else for that matter). In so far as Instruction there is interpreted as Instruction (in manners etc) it might well have been better included under the rubric Courtesy Books, for what little it has to say on other things is also ventured upon in the longer article – and we would have been deprived of a large, ill-printed (and pointless) full-page illustration of what was originally a very tiny book.
As to the long article, this begins well, making a useful distinction between school and “library” nonfiction and seeking to justify the genre as a part of “literature”, but it then descends first into a brief and feeble historical glance at one or two pre-20th century books and then launches into a long account which British readers will find pretty well pointless since it is entirely confined to events and publications in the US. That tends to be matched by other entries for things like Biographies and Science Books but these are mostly titles fitted in to a chronological pattern and the essential element of the whole genre – the nature of our understanding of factual matters and the way treatments will differ from subject to subject and from age group to age group is entirely neglected.
Publishers and publishing
The article under this rubric is another disaster area, and portends a major flaw in the system. For children’s literature has always been a publisher-driven industry and an authoritative account of the proponents is essential to an understanding of what lies behind the creative work. The introduction to the entry (by an American academic) suggests that he recognises this but everything that follows is naive blather which waffles on in a very undirected way about social effects in the market but says nothing about the economics of production and distribution over centuries of technological and fiscal change, and very little about the emergence of specialist techniques in the editing and marketing of children’s books. As with “Nonfiction” above, his position in the US cannot help but cause him to foreground developments there at the cost of developing a valuable comparative treatment of events across the Atlantic, not only in Britain but also continental Europe. The three volumes that constitute his “Bibliography” bear witness to his marginal knowledge of his subject.
It seems as though, at some point, a brave decision was made to include entries on publishing houses in the Encyclopedia . Several articles occur on important 18th century firms (oddly omitting Joseph Johnson) but then the momentum fails and hardly any companies, either British or American, are discussed, their absence strangely highlighted by an entry on Specialist Publishing Houses in the United States (but not Britain) where “niche” firms gain more attention than ever their commercial brethren do. (Through the usual slipshod practices, publishers do not have their own section in the “Topical Outline of Entries” in Volume 4 but are lumped in with Authors/Illustrators. Magazines they may have husbanded are found in Special Subjects and one or two named series [Golden Books, Ladybird Books, Puffin Books] in Genres.) This omission deprives the Encyclopedia of the chance of examining changing influences and fashions in the making of children’s books and although some ground might have been recovered if entries on modern publishers’ editors had been included, there too we almost draw a blank. (Was Ursula Nordstrom included on the strength of her published letters? Famous though she be, there are many US and British editors who wielded an almost comparable influence – and Grace Hogarth [who also both drew and wrote for children] is arguably a more important figure, but is entirely neglected, unless you count her one-line appearance in a parenthesis under her maiden name.)
Aside from the waywardness of the treatment of individual subjects, it is also necessary to look at the following structural aspects of the work:-
4. Selection (contents):
Reviews of reference books always make hay with what is included and what omitted, but the only rational way to confront the issue is to ask why X is excluded when the clearly equivalent Y is in. My comment above on the exclusion of all publishers from about 1810 onwards is a case in point and a list could easily be prepared with names of firms who had an equivalent importance for the subject as those present (Dean…Cundall…Burns…Routledge…Macmillan in London… etc. [but note that a piece on Frederick Warne does not deal much with the company he founded]; early US publishers other than Isaiah Thomas…McLoughlin…Roberts…Macmillan in New York…etc). The ill-thought-out treatment of non-fiction, and its US bias, also means that not only are significant publishers and series omitted (Usborne, Dorling Kindersley, Franklin Watts and First Books etc) but authors such as Terry Deary who have an individual claim to attention in the field.
Certainly it is easier to point out omissions from moderately well-charted past times, although the Encyclopedia ’s attempt at international coverage cannot help but enlarge the problem. (What on earth is Friedrich Nicolai doing here, a pedagogue marginal even in Germany – and how come our editor-in-chief, who is a Professor of German, allowed “Meinungen” [= “Opinions”] to be translated as “Meanings”?) The real difficulty lies with contemporary people and events and I know from experience how unenviable the task is of determining choices. By and large it seems to me that a good effort has been made to include all that users might expect, although every reader will have favourites whose omission they will deem surprising (Jeanne Willis, only mentioned here and there…Pat Marriott, Maureen Roffey and Tracey Campbell Pearson, not dealt with at all…etc).
The proprietors of Books for Keeps may wish to dispute this uncharacteristically sanguine judgment. For while the work includes an entry for a contemporary review journal called Carousel their own publication gains mention only at the end of a lacklustre entry for Rosemary Stones.
5. Selection (weight):
Here the editorial team are much more culpable, their assessments of how much space to assign to each entry being frequently questionable. I could duplicate many times such a question as: why does Jan Ormerod warrant just over a column when the far more versatile Helen Oxenbury has only about half that space? But there are also questions relating to the treatment of paired entries and of single books. In the first case, we find the Brocks and the two Bewicks each crammed into very ungenerous single articles when their separate activities require division, while (one of the daftest bits of the whole book) there is one entry each for Harve (or is he Harvey? we get both) and Margot Zemach which are repetitious – and disgracefully restricted as well.
With regard to single books and the like (I have already noticed inconsistencies in the treatment of single folktales), one naturally expects to find anonymous works given their own entries, but this does mean that they get a degree of attention beyond that given to often major works included within an author-article. What has The Paths of Learning Strewed with Flowers done to warrant separate treatment? Why could not The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women be incorporated into Limericks, and what has happened to the cross-referencing between these entries and Edward Lear? (One might also ask why one or two titles with known authors like The Peacock “at Home” or The Wallypug of Why are given entries on their own instead of under the names of their creators?)
And we can also come back to the treatment of the dear old Orbis Pictus . As has already been shown, that book enjoys discussion under rubrics for itself and its author. Why is it so privileged? The entries should surely have been combined as has occurred with other books which are the only children’s books of importance by their authors, The Little Prince , say, or especially Peter Pan .
6. Content (treatment):
In Doderer’s Lexicon (admired by Zipes) the content of most entries is systematically divided between biography or background; works; and editorial assessment, with references and cross-references added at the end, as here. That practice may seem something of a straitjacket to readers who want a more journalistic approach but it has the virtue of being consistent and helpful to the user who is seeking specific information. Not only is no such plan in operation here, but there is no evidence that contributors have been asked to analyse their subjects into such natural categories to ensure that they are, however briefly, included. There is no systematic covering of biographical facts whether such things are regarded as important for an author’s career or not. (We get quite a lot about George Orwell’s early activities [his presence, like that of some other “adult” writers, like William Golding, is attributable to the makers of school syllabuses]. His biography includes his “graduation” from Eton, but for an author whose childhood and education are notable factors in their writing, such as Alison Uttley, we get nothing. And – incidentally – should there be a universal inclusion of places of education, and, if those happen to be Oxford and Cambridge, should just the university or the college also be mentioned? It may not matter much but disorderly fluctuations in a reference book are to be avoided.)
A similar casualness (as seen in my BfK example) prevails over the inclusion and discussion of an author’s works, which is, of course of central importance to the whole operation. There are so many writers and artists qualifying for inclusion and their work is so diverse as to quantity, quality and character, that it’s hard enough in all conscience to devise a method to cope with all of them. But by dishing out the job to so many contributors of so varied an ability, the editor offers too many hostages to fortune. Listing titles, with barely a comment, telling the plots of book after book, engaging in unsupported critical remarks occur throughout with insufficient textual control. A scrupulous article on the very difficult subject of William Mayne compares well against one on C.S.Lewis, which neglects the criticisms levelled at his work and resorts to telling the stories of Narnia seriatim. In the instance of Ormerod/Oxenbury just given, I find the discussion of two books by the former of great interest, warranting the space that is devoted to them, but there are quite a few books illustrated by the latter which also deserve such careful examination but which are not even mentioned in the article: her early counting and alphabet books and – dare I say? – Cakes and Custard . The truth is that in a project involving more than 800 contributors a far more diligent editorial presence is needed (to direct operations on behalf of the user) than is observable here.
7. Illustration, titling and the Atlantic Ocean
Although the illustration of texts is very widely found in children’s books and is often of great interest to their intended readers almost no effort is made regularly to enter the illustrator of a text alongside its title, discuss the importance of the pictures in the artistic whole, or comment on subsequent reillustration. I take a view that this should be de rigueur – if only because illustrators are too often neglected and their work too rarely recorded when it is done for other authors.
Such a policy is tough on space (but a bit more economy over the inclusion of authors like Nicolai – or Orwell – or duplicating stuff on the Orbis Pictus might help) and I am afraid that even tougher demands are also arguable. For, as has already been implied, the editing of this work primarily in the USA (but with numerous advisory editors etc from elsewhere) has necessarily slanted emphases in that direction and has thus helped to highlight the need to clarify relationships with other countries, particularly the UK. Thus, one needs to ask whether the place of publication should be given with all dates, and whether a date should also be given for Transatlantic issues where that differs from the country of origin. Furthermore, such information should be supplemented by a note of alterations to a book’s title ( Minnow on the Say in London becomes Minnow Leads to Treasure in New York), which does occur here from time to time, but not consistently. Also, as happens with considerable regularity, a change of illustrator should be recorded – in the unlikely case that an illustrator is ever mentioned ( Swallows and Amazons and other Ransome titles, for instance, were illustrated by Helene Carter in the US editions).
8. Cross references:
Enough has already been said, I hope, to indicate how defective has been the supply of these to individual articles. It may well be that the method employed might more happily be replaced by the system of asterisks planted within the text as used by The Cambridge Guide . On many pages space has been taken up by separating out what must have been regarded as “famous titles” so that the reader can be referred to the author entry. This is dotty. On the one hand, if you don’t know who wrote Harry Potter or the Frances books then the index will tell you, on the other how do you choose what to single out? Moonfleet ?… The Little Wooden Horse ?… Mike Mulligan ?…etc, etc.
These are a monumental disgrace and suggest as well as anything the unpreparedness at editorial level to service the work in the interest of readers. After all, no one can expect an encyclopedia to do all the work of giving information and one of its assets should be that it directs the user to where more help can be obtained. That does not occur here. Over and over again contributors fail to give any guidance to further reading, or the guidance given neglects fundamental sources, especially bibliographies. (William Heath Robinson is a much put-upon figure in this work: a major author/illustrator who has been coralled into a too-small word-count and whose contributor appears not to have been allowed any space to suggest further readings, which could include his own excellent bibliographies of his subject. I have noted many other examples.)
10. The Internet
Here and there, very rarely, a reference is made to information gleaned from the Internet (eg. Jim Trelease’s website) and a note from the editor-in-chief on his policy in this respect would have been welcome. He would probably have been wise to exclude all such references on the grounds that his readers will all have the wit (and the equipment?) to go hunt down their quarry in Googleland without advice from him – although references to major collections whose catalogues are available online would be a decided service.
Heaven forbid though, that the thought should cross his mind that the amassing of information and the keeping of it up to date are likely to be much better accomplished through the internet than in the cumbersome medium of a four-volume doorstopper – but that is probably the case. (And perhaps that goes for the reviewing of his efforts too.)