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Enquire Within Upon Everything

Stop me if you’ve done this before: you’re watching TV, and you hear about a person, place, or thing you know nothing about. Wasting not a minute, you run to your computer to hit up Wikipedia. In minutes, you know all about whatever it was you were ignorant about moments ago.

Obviously, this has been happening for much of man’s sorry existence, and Wikipedia has only been around to help us for a few years. But before Wikipedia, there was Enquire Within Upon Everything. Not quite an almanac, not quite an encyclopedia, this deceptively small reference guide offered bite-sized instructions to people for years at the turn of the century. From how to do needlework, to how to tell if your bread is adulterated with alum, to how to remove stains from carpet, Enquire addresses pretty much every need people could have in 5 pages or less. I feel pretty confident saying that, provided you could read it,  you probably had no problems in life back in the day if you had this book (except possibly World War I and deadly flu epidemics).

As an enthusiast of antique self-help and reference literature, I was pleased as punch to get a copy of this fine book, which has seen mention as a fixture of life in classic literature by authors such as Agatha Christie and P.G. Woodhouse. Collectors should have no trouble getting ahold of this book since about 90 billion copies were printed during its publishing life. However, be aware that the book will most likely be damaged due to the heavy use it probably received (this was not meant to sit on a shelf) and tracking down a specific edition may be a little tricky (as of the edition I own, there had been over fifty previous editions). Enquire Within Upon Everything can be considered the English counterpart to America’s seminal Old Farmer’s Almanac, and is not only an amusing and historical read, but includes advice which is as prescient today as it was almost a century ago (except for the parts about alum in your bread).

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