LETTER- '29 skiddoo: The fabulous, elitist Britannica

Mariane Matera, writing the October 12 Essay, "Cancel: Divorcing the daily paper," says she ended her subscription to the daily paper after 37 years. Reading that essay in a Charlottesville weekly, one might conclude she was referring to a Charlottesville daily.

She wasn't. How can we tell? Because she says, "For the majority of my years as a subscriber, I received the now-defunct afternoon paper." While the Daily Progress was once an afternoon paper (except for Saturday and Sunday editions), it switched to all mornings 16 years ago.

Most likely, since Mariane was described as "a Richmond cat lover," what she cancelled was a subscription to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a subscription that began when the afternoon News-Leader was merged into it in (checking Wikipedia) 1992.

Wikipedia, the Hook's object of interest last week, became a wonderful source of information practically overnight, an online encyclopedia anyone can write for that's constantly being refined and improved. It's a far cry from the 14th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1929 which had to rely on entries set in stone– no changes.

No changes could be made to the entry describing the University of Virginia written by the school's first President, Edwin Alderman. No changes in the entry explaining atoms by Niels Bohr. None on Harry F. Byrd's entry on Virginia, or North Pole explorer Richard Byrd's entry about North Pole explorer Richard Peary.

Fixed in stone is Cecil B. De Mille's entry on Motion Pictures, future Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas's entry on Bankruptcy, Lammot du Pont's essay explaining his family's industrial empire, or the history of photography by George Eastman who founded Eastman-Kodak.

It goes on and on. Alfred North Whitehead describing Mathematics, Bertrand Russell describing Relativity, Trotsky explaining Lenin.

The 14th Britannica was the epitome of an elitist encyclopedias. None was ever that grand before or after. Quite the reverse of Wikipedia, thus far the sole intellectual achievement of egalitarianism. But the potential boggles the mind.

Rey Barry