31 March 2023

The Allure of History

I am a child of the 1960s born at the tail-end of the post World war II "Baby Boom". It is strange to consider myself part of that generation because my parents were still children at the end of the war, only entering adulthood in the 1950s. They married young and my life began less than a year later. After my birth, but prior to entering kindergarten, my world was filled with books that I would use for good and for ill through college.

These book sets were purchased thorough direct sales on an installment plan. Among the sets were the 1962 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, the entire 54-volume set of Great Books of the Western World, and a much smaller set of encyclopedias. This smaller set required one-third of the shelf space required by Encyclopædia Britannica, had larger print, and shorter articles. It was my first source in innumerable school projects from elementary school through high school. The volumes were tattered from use by the time my youngest brother graduated high school.

Reading more of the Great Books would have helped my education. I struggled to read Euclid when I was taking Geometry in high school, but spent too little time to get far. Likewise, I started but did not finish Darwin's Origin of Species. At my father's insistence, I read Richard henry Dana, Jr. Two Years Before the Mast. My father always insisted that it was a more realistic account of life at sea than Moby-Dick.

Another, much smaller set of books set me on my life's course. It was a sixteen volume set containing illustrated essays and photo essays from the pages of American Heritage. Countless hours were spent looking at these images. More time was invested reading many of the articles.

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