• Due to renovations to our vault, access to our collections is limited until further notice. Please contact us for more information.

The Self-Educator

I’d like to introduce you to a volume in our Rare Books collection. It’s the very first book on the very first shelf of our Rare section. This book has found a fond spot in our hearts here in A&SC and we find it woefully underused. It’s full of all sorts of good advice and information. This book is the Gay’s Standard Encyclopaedia and Self-Educator, dating from 1885.

Well, I say it’s the Gay’s Standard Encyclopaedia and Self-Educator, but the title according to the cover is: Gay’s Standard Encyclopaedia and Self-Educator Comprising Popular Useful Commercial Legal and Scientific Knowledge, Historical Political Statistical Classic Literary Dramatic Domestic Medical and Recreative Education.

Gay's Standard Encyclopedia

Isn’t that a mouthful? It gets better, though, because that’s not even the full title as it appears on the title page which is (take a deep breath):

Gay’s Standard Encyclopaedia and Self-Educator: A Household Library of Scientific and Useful Information. Embracing outlines of universal history, portraits, and biographies of eminent persons, illustrated experiments in natural philosophy and chemistry, electricity applied to the trades, astronomy, medicine, architecture, international commerce, commercial law, parliamentary law, penmanship and book-keeping, composition and correspondence, dictionary of synonyms, language, elocution and oratory, biographical list of authors, phonetic shorthand, telegraphy, photography, Constitution of the United States, poetry, language of flowers, home life and happiness, etiquette and conduct of life, courtship and marriage, home amusements and adornment, household receipts and cookery, and many other important features; forming a complete social and business manual, and compendium of useful and scientific knowledge.

And all that in just 756 pages!

Sporadically over the course of the next year, we hope to share some of its little gems with you. We hope you enjoy watching us educate ourselves! Up first? Well, there’s so many. At the moment I’m leaning toward the Amateur Taxidermist’s Guide.



  1. I found a copy at a swap meet and I don’t know what to do with it its really beat up and its falling apart I was wondering if I should put the money forward and have it restored I don’t know even know if it is capable of being restored please let me know if you need to get ahold of me my email is [removed]

    and I would also like to know what this book would be worth in the condition above and what it would be worth really torn up and fragile

  2. Good question! Unfortunately we don’t know how much this book is worth. You might want to search around some rare book and antiquarian book dealers on the web to see if you can find any for sale. Ours isn’t in perfect condition either: I know of at least a few pages missing.

    In terms of having work done on it, you might want to check Conservation Online for a list of professionals who do this kind of work. http://cool.conservation-us.org/misc/people/

Leave a Reply