Dan Sandman

04: The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments by Max Wade-Matthews

In Books, Encyclopaedia, Non-Fiction on 25/01/2013 at 12:00 pm

For a short time I was a bookseller working for Borders. Part of my job was to arrange books in a way that would attract customers to them and I was put in charge of bargain books. After a while I got a feel for the sorts of books that end up on the bargain books display table: books about fishing for hobbyists; books about WWII with big pictures; books about Tibetan Buddhism containing quotes from the Dalai Lama; books about football clubs full of statistics; books of all sorts containing varying degrees of knowledge and wisdom.

The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments by Max Wade-Matthews

“you might pick yourself up a steal such as The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments for £1.99.”

There is a shop I like on Camden High Street called The Book Warehouse which sells bargain books. It is part of a chain of stores dotted around London from Golders Green in the north to Hammersimith in the west. The shop’s speciality is bargain books, and – among other kitsch trinkets – you might pick yourself up a steal such as The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments for £1.99.

Now long ago, before Wikipedia was a glint in the milkman’s eye, there were strange things called Encyclopaedias or (to give the American spelling as seen above – ahem) Encyclopedias  that contained general knowledge and wisdom on things. I remember one called The Joy of Knowledge from my childhood fondly. It was a mail order series of books, handed down to me by my brothers, and referenced throughout my time at school. Nowadays, I should think kids probably refer to the internet when putting together an English essay, in the nineties we used books.

It was books that contained the answers to life’s pondering questions. If you needed to know the capital of Australia or if you wanted to know how a volcano is formed, it was encyclopaedic books that guided you to enlightenment. They were the friendly and kind teacher; cherished for their insight, respected for their scholarly knowledge, and praised for their concise explanations. I have loved and still do love a good encyclopaedia and I think that books are yet to be beaten for enjoyably putting the answers in your own two hands.

The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments by Max Wade-Matthews (inside)

“The book is packed with colourful pictures, interesting facts and useful information.”

This week’s book served well as comprehensive introduction to the history, construction and use of musical instruments. Although there is a bias towards western orchestral musical instruments, it by no means ignores other cultural and historical backgrounds. The book is packed with colourful pictures, interesting facts and useful information. One can’t help being enthused when reading about Pythagoras’ early acoustical experiments or the saxophone’s rise in popularity. Reading such an encyclopaedic overview of a subject is bound to lead to further discoveries, and what better way to learn more about a subject than to pick up a good book and to start turning its’ pages.

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