I read with resigned sadness that Encyclopaedia Britannica is ceasing its print production after starting its life in Scotland in 1768, 244 years ago. In this time it has grown from a modest three volumes to 32 volumes in the latest edition. In its heyday the Britannica commanded a great deal of respect as it was filled with many scholarly articles in a world craving for knowledge and understanding. Today, with the internet and the over abundance of resources, as well as the increased level of education, that honour has diminished somewhat.
Being a bibliophile, I love my Britannicas. I have three sets: A Replica of the first edition, the 9th edition (C19th – pictured) and the 15th edition (from 1975). The truth is, however, I use them very little nowadays. Just as a lot of my Bible study is done from behind the keyboard, with computer programmes and online resources, so is my research. The online Britannica gets more use than the print edition. More often than not, the volumes are used as weights for my wife’s paper making. Today I use my iPad for quick reference and to read books because the public library or book store is “too far away”. I am part of the blame for the printed Britannica’s demise.
But still my emotions stir with this news because I love the feel of a book and turning its pages. Then again, the Scribe might have said the same about unrolling the scroll, or the artisan about chipping into a stele.
As a Christian, it is amazing to reflect on this change in “technologies” over the years. The Bible, too, has been part of these changes. However the Holy Spirit has never been bound by technology. From word of mouth, to Kindles and iPads, the Word of God has continued to spread, inform, challenge and change people over the centuries.