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WORLD OF WORDS: Taking an intellectual journey into a knowledge wilderness

SOME years ago, Royal Professor Ungku Aziz challenged the audience to read the entire volume of Encyclopedia Britannica and all the journals published by the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS). It would be an adventure unlike any other -- an intellectual journey into a knowledge wilderness.

As time passed by, I was engrossed in issues pertaining to brick and butter and occasionally that of survival. But I did check what would be in store if I were to take up the challenge. It would been an intellectual version of climbing the Everest without supplemental oxygen or summiting K2 during winter. Needless to say, the odds were insurmountable.

Let's begin with the MBRAS journals. MBRAS was established by British administrators who were interested in "Malayan studies".

The journals published since 1877 pioneered studies on Malayan culture, history, literature, botany, ecology, archeology and anthropology. Reading such dense texts that have been around for 135 years was no easy feat. I gave up.

I checked the Encyclopedia Britannica. It has been around for 244 years, the first edition came out in Scotland in 1768.

At its peak, it consisted of 65,000 entries, in 44 million words, covering 33,000 pages with 24,000 images. There were 9,500 contributors for the 32-volume set, not including its indexes and a Propedia, an introductory volume that was started in its 15th edition.

I did a bit of hom

Read more: The fun of reading dictionaries, encyclopedias - Columnist - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/the-fun-of-reading-dictionaries-encyclopedias-1.165738#ixzz2B7jPS34d