Enquire Within

cover of 1939 edition - 113th of Enquire Within Upon Everything

No, not another Computer post! Just a little bit, so please Stay with me…

I came across this book in a second-hand bookshop decades ago. The title caught my attention – And yes, I bought it before there was this thing we call the Internet.

from Wikipedia Commons: photo of first Web server at CERN with open copy of 'enquire within upon everythng'



The story goes that “Enquire within upon Everything‘ was the inspiration for the name of Sir Tim Berners-Lee “ENQUIRE” . There is even a photo of the opened book next to the world’s first Web Server (thanks, WikipediaCommons!)

That’s all the Computer stuff dealt with – back to the book: It was first published in 1856 and modernised version were still in print in the early 1990s. My copy is the 113th edition – from 1939. It is a mixture of how-to and reference books with 2,361 subject headers, and 575 pages. Apparently the first editions lacked an index and the Editor seems to have been rather fed up with complaints.

If there be any among my Readers who, having turned over the pages of ‘ENQUIRE WITHIN’, have pronounced them to be confused and ill-arranged, let them at once refer to THE INDEX, at page 549, and for ever hold their peace.

First sentence in (unnamed) Editor’s Preface to 113th Edition of ‘Enquire within upon Everything’

The book does indeed, cater to (almost) everything and with so many entries I’m sure I will refer back to it in future blogs.

covers of 2 Agatha Christie titles: Halloween and Elephants Can Remember

I love that (my favourite) crime author Agatha Christie also mentions the book. It plays a significant role in ‘Halloween Party’ (as a hiding place for an important document) and gets an honourable mention in ‘Elephants can remember‘ (the aunt of fictional crime author Ariadne Oliver used to have a copy and Ms Oliver thinks her former secretary was just like the book).

There are some wonderful entries: A whole section on cooking, including a recipe for a Wow Wow Sauce, advice on bottling and storing food items, time-tables for roasting and for ‘Hanging Game” (for both mild and cold weather) and so much more. Here are some photos of the Index pages (each also offers a ‘thought for the day’) and 2 content pages that will help you behave properly. Feast your eyes and let your mind boggle!

sample index pages from Enquire Within Upon Everything (Animals to  Blue Colour)
From Animal Collecting and Preserving via the discovery of Bar-El-Ghazal and Berlin Wool to Mould on Cheese..
sample index pages from Enquire Within Upon Everything (Cheese to Death Certificate)
From Blue Cheese via Chlorine Poisoning to Treatment of Corns and Death Certificates..
sample index pages from Enquire Within Upon Everything (Stomachics to Venison)
Stomachics, Styptics, Tartaric Acid, Anchovy Toast, Trefoil Tatting and ‘Travelling Made Easy’ to ‘removing Grease from Velvet’
sample content pages from 1939 edition of Enquire Within Upon Everything (pages 365 and 365)
Important Etiquette Notes and advice on choosing friends and how to be ‘agreeable’
sample content pages from 1939 edition of Enquire Within Upon Everything (pages 30 and 31)
An excerpt from the Cooking section

6 thoughts on “Enquire Within

  1. Great share 🙂 It looks like a proper little gem of info and randomness, and I like the links to Christie and Berners-Lee. I have two books similiar, though not nearly as old – ‘Schott’s Original Miscellany’ and ‘The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook’.

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