RIGAThe National Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, ca. 1897

To a bibliophile, there is nothing sadder than a historical text disbound, illustrations sold off, the text discarded. While this makes individual pages more affordable for the collector, this intellectual chop shop throws away the most valuable window to the past: words, and puts the provenance of the original into doubt.

When we obtained an engraving of Riga from the latter half of the 19th century, from an encyclopedia "published in 1869", we were gratified to find that the accompanying article (described as an illustration blemish) was intact. However, since the article mentioned the population of Riga in 1897—282,943 and counting—we uncovered the encyclopedia was actually published three decades later than advertised.

The source for the article was indicated as The National Encyclopedia. Our research uncovered at least three different encyclopedias published by that title. This adjoining encyclopedic entry provided an additional clue:

"RIGAUDON, the old French dance equivalent to the English rigadoon. It is a matter of dispute whether the French took their name from the English (the word being assumed to be connected with rig, merry, as we might say a "merry go down"), or the English from the French. The latter seems to be the the fact, because the rigadoon was the court dance under Louis XIII, but was not familiar in England till James II. or William III., half a century later. Rousseau's remark that the name came from Rigaud, a dancing master, is quite unsupported [OUR EMPHASIS]. The dance is almost certainly of Provençal origin. It has a peculiar jump or spring in it. The music is in 2—2 or 4—4 time. The best type of music to this dance is the famous and very fine rigaudon in "Dardanus," by Rameau."

This encyclopedic disparaging of Rousseau could only be of British origin. That implied the article source was likely a later edition of The National Encyclopedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge published by William Mackenzie, London. We ultimately confirmed that with the seller, to whom the original publishing date had apparently been misrepresented.

Updated: July, 2016

An earlier 13-volume set of The National Encyclopedia (original at www.prettygoodbritain.com/encyclopedia.html

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