cover of book

The World in a Box: The Story of an Eighteenth-Century Picture Encyclopedia
by Anke te Heesen
translated by Ann M. Hentschel
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Paper: 978-0-226-32287-2 | Cloth: 978-0-226-32286-5
Library of Congress Classification AG27.W433H44 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 033.1

This is a book about a box that contained the world. The box was the Picture Academy for the Young, a popular encyclopedia in pictures invented by preacher-turned-publisher Johann Siegmund Stoy in eighteenth-century Germany. Children were expected to cut out the pictures from the Academy, glue them onto cards, and arrange those cards in ordered compartments—the whole world filed in a box of images.

As Anke te Heesen demonstrates, Stoy and his world in a box epitomized the Enlightenment concern with the creation and maintenance of an appropriate moral, intellectual, and social order. The box, and its images from nature, myth, and biblical history, were intended to teach children how to collect, store, and order knowledge. te Heesen compares the Academy with other aspects of Enlightenment material culture, such as commercial warehouses and natural history cabinets, to show how the kinds of collecting and ordering practices taught by the Academy shaped both the developing middle class in Germany and Enlightenment thought. The World in a Box, illustrated with a multitude of images of and from Stoy's Academy, offers a glimpse into a time when it was believed that knowledge could be contained and controlled.

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