“As knowledge has increased it has become more and more necessary, 
in order to say something (and themost important something) about everything,
to be content not to say everything about anything.”1


The Universal Standard Encyclopedia exits as an object on the floor of bedroom. It exists as a 1958 re-printing of The Funk and Wagnalls 1931 New Standard of Universal Knowledge, originally a re-print of The Funk and Wagnalls 1913 Standard of World Knowledge. It exists as a series of paintings, and as a drawer full of encyclopedia pages in the hutch in my living room.

A painting is an object, an image, and a representation of an idea. An Encyclopedia is an object, a short hand alphabetical compilation of larger texts, and a container for many ideas. Paintings tend to be closed mysterious objects, immaculate conceptions of their authors. The encyclopedia makes itself author-less with its unaccountable references. My particular encyclopedia The Universal Standard was compiled “By an Editorial staff of experts and specialists with the help of the leading scholars, and scientists, and men of affairs of the english speaking world.”1 Both of these objects are created by invisible laborers. Their creative process is hidden from the user or observer.

Both the encyclopedia and the painting are objects, they are authorities for themselves. The encyclopedic reference is pleading for use with its name, promising the world's information. Paintings do not plead, they command privilege with their lack of explanation. For this project I would like you to take a piece of my encyclopedia. Take both the reference information and a dictated object of truth. Shove it into a drawer or keep it in your pocket, but know this; the value of a thing is judged on a scale of inconsistency, focused attention is pricelessly valuable.

The worth of a text may be measured in many ways; its cost to shelve and catalog, its historical value, the wealth of contents, or simply its measure of influence and communication.

B y  J. A. Pollack

1Funk and Wagnalls, “Encyclopedia,” in New Standard Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge, vol. 13 (Funk and Wagnalls, 1931).

1Funk and Wagnalls, “Encyclopedia,” in Standard Encyclopedia of the World's Knowledge, vol. 10 (Funk and Wagnalls, 1913).