All the Knowledge in the World

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474610797

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 7th September 2023

Genre: Humanities / History / History: Specific Events & Topics

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‘Witty and geekily eclectic’ The Times
An erudite and amusing exploration’ Financial Times
‘Full of jawdropping facts’ Mail on Sunday
‘Remarkable . . . engrossing’ Sunday Times
‘A pleasure’ Spectator
‘An infectiously enthusiastic history’ Times Literary Supplement


The encyclopaedia once shaped our understanding of the world. Now these huge books sell for almost nothing on eBay while we derive information from our phones. What have we lost in this transition? All the Knowledge in the World tracks the story from Ancient Greece to Wikipedia, from modest single-volumes to the 11,000-volume Chinese manuscript that was too big to print. It exposes how encyclopaedias reflect our changing attitudes towards sexuality, race and technology, uncovers a fascinating part of our shared past and wonders whether the promise of complete knowledge – that most human of ambitions – will forever be beyond our grasp.

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Reviews

Witty and geekily eclectic . . . celebrates encyclopaedias in all their quirky, leatherbound glory
Ethan Croft, THE TIMES
The life and death of the encyclopedia is recounted in Simon Garfield's excellent new book . . . Garfield is lucid, witty, learned and clearly a bibliomaniac . . . In All the Knowledge in the World, he has produced a lively threnody to the encyclopedic impulse . . . Impressively comprehensive
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Simon Garfield's history of the encyclopaedia is full of jawdropping facts, and he turns what might have been a dry subject into an enjoyable, quirky, highly informative tour . . . fascinating
Simon Humphreys, MAIL ON SUNDAY
Simon Garfield is the only author who could ever keep me up at night reading about encyclopedias. A brilliant book about knowledge itself
DEIRDRE MASK
Delightful. Garfield's witty history captures the obsessive, quixotic and sometimes error-filled quests of those . . . who have attempted to corral all the world's information into a single source
NEW YORK TIMES
A valentine to the monumental significance of encyclopaedias, reminding us how, until the arrival of computers, "they did more than any other single thing to shape our understanding of the world". Illustrates Garfield's capacity to synthesise wide-ranging research and present it in a lucid, vibrant style with his characteristic eye for detail
IRISH EXAMINER
All human life is here - and animal, vegetable and mineral life, too
HARRY MOUNT
Magnificent . . . The story [Garfield] tells is truly extraordinary . . . A perfectly styled work of literature - at times sad, at times funny, but always full of life . . . One of those few books that I've found impossible to put down
Vitali Vitaliev, ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY
Illuminating . . . An infectiously enthusiastic history, inspired by genuine affection
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
A fascinating history . . . Lively and informative
WASHINGTON POST
Simon Garfield's fascinating story of encyclopaedias is itself brilliantly encyclopaedic
DAVID CRYSTAL
An erudite and amusing exploration of the human quest for knowledge
FINANCIAL TIMES
A delightful romp through the history of trying to summarise all there is to be known. Simon Garfield displays his inimitable mix of curiosity, learnedness and wit
TIM HARFORD
Remarkable . . . engrossing. It is impossible to give readers an impression of the scope and power of Garfield's knowledge and imagination
John Carey, SUNDAY TIMES
Suitably encyclopaedic - written with all [Garfield's] usual wit and sharp eye for memorable facts
READER'S DIGEST
A gripping story - so much I didn't know here! I loved this book
SARA WHEELER
Anyone fascinated by the origins, evolution and the ultimate mortality of print encyclopedias will love this book. All the Knowledge in the World is excellent at telling the long historical story of all encyclopedias, including those that predated Britannica. The book does a great job of detailing the 20th-century history of Britannica and the full story of Wikipedia's creation, challenges and impact
INSIDE HIGHER ED
A pleasure. Garfield writes fluidly, cheerily and charmingly, even while the breeziness does not detract from the scale of his ambition: to understand nothing less than humans' need for knowledge and how to convey and preserve it
Rose George, THE SPECTATOR