An Outline of Modern Knowledge

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An Outline of Modern Knowledge, published by Victor Gollancz in 1931, was an “omnibus” volume intended to survey the full range of human knowledge.

It was the first such volume to include entirely new material. Editor William Rose solicited leading authorities of the time, including Roger Fry, C. G. Seligman, Maurice Dobb, F. J. C. Hearnshaw, G. D. H. Cole, J. C. Flügel, R. R. Marett, and J. W. N. Sullivan among others, to contribute informative essays written for the common reader.

The publishers explained their reasons for creating such a volume in their Spring 1931 list of their latest titles:

“Because in our view there has been steadily growing, during the last twelve years, a desire to know which has had no parallel since the Renaissance, and which is now felt by relatively a far larger class of men and women than it was then. Under the surface of a vulgarity, a triviality, and a noisiness which (because they have been the most blatant) have seemed the most characteristic stigmata of our time, everywhere and in ever-widening circles educated people have been becoming philosophers—have wished to understand as clearly as they might the meaning of their own life and that of the Universe.”

The twenty-four articles carried the reader through the subjects of science, philosophy, religion, sex, mathematics, astronomy, biology, anthropology, cosmogony, psychology, psycho-analysis, archaeology, economics, politics, finance, industry, internationalism, history, ethnology, geography, literary criticism, music, architecture, painting and sculpture.