: views from the Hill

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Today is the sixteenth anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee posting the first Web pages about his hypertext project that eventually evolved into the World Wide Web.

I mentioned that I'd come across my copy of WEAVING THE WEB yesterday, inscribed "To Sal" by Tim B-L, my hero.

PJ Parks, who used to have a very readable blog but now no longer does, wrote that she has a copy too and talked about ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING, a Victorian factoid book and the motivation for TB-L to name his proto-WWW project ENQUIRE.

Today, while sorting books and packing up boxes, I found a copy -- well, not the Brit version, mine is the American version: INQUIRE WITHIN FOR ANYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW, or Over Three Thousand Seven Hundred Facts WORTH KNOWING. Particularly intended as a book for Family Reference on Subjects connected with Domestic Economy, and containing the Largest and most Valuable Collection of Useful Information that has ever yet been published. INQUIRERS ARE REFERRED TO THE INDEX. (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, No. 18 Ann Street. 1858 [maybe 1856, the numeral didn't print clearly])

The book has all =sorts= of useful (and quaint and dated and sometimes flat out wrong) stuff.


794. YULECAKE -- Take one pound of fresh butter, one pound of sugar, one pound and a half of flour, two pounds of currants, a glass of brandy, one pound of sweetmeats, two ounces of sweet almonds, ten eggs, a quarter of an ounce of allspice and a quarter of an ounce of cinnamon. Melt the butter to a cream, and put in the sugar. Stir it till quite light, adding the allspice and pounded cinnamon; in a quarter of an hour, take the yolks of the eggs, and work them two or three at a time; and the whites of the same must by this time be beaten into a strong snow, quite ready to work in. As the paste must not stand to chill the butter, or it will be heavy, work in the whites gradually, then add the orange-peel, lemon, and citron, cut in fine stripes [sic], and currants which must be mixed in well with the sweet almonds; then add the sifted flour and glass of brandy. Bake this cake in a tin hoop, in a hot oven, for three hours, and put twelve sheets of paper under it to keep it from burning.


2004. Why does a lamp smoke, when the wick is cut unevenly? -- Because the points of the jagged edge (being very easily separated from the wick) load the flame with more carbon that [sic] it can consume; and as the heat of the flame is greatly diminished by these little bits of wicks, it is unable to consume even the usual quantity of smoke. The same applies when the wick is turned up too high.

Some of the stuff in INQUIRE WITHIN is word-for-word what's in ENQUIRE WITHIN. The scarf washing article above, f'rex, is word-for-word except that the title is "To Wash China Crêpe Scarves, &c." in ENQUIRE.

Other bits of information (the one about lamp smoke, f'rex) are not covered by ENQUIRE WITHIN at all.

All-in-all fun stuff. You can see why TB-L called his project ENQUIRE -- there's more than a bit of resemblance to the random collection of stuff on the Web.

How prescient of him.

Project Gutenberg has made a copy of ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING available. Did TB-L even dream sixteen years ago that his nifty little project would some day offer up ENQUIRE WITHIN UPON EVERYTHING for anyone with Web access?

Thanks, TB-L!

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