Google, could you do what Bartlett's did?

Google, could you do what Bartlett's did?

It's been interesting to run across quotations from Winston Churchill's speaking and writing when I've been browsing through Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

But I got thinking differently when I read a reference to Bartlett's in Churchill's book, "My Early Life" (Copyright 1930 by Charles Scribner's Sons of New York, originally published by Butterworth of London).

Churchill wrote, "It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more."


Could someone add to his education by doing a Google search and picking out interesting quotations or articles from the hundreds of thousands of answers to even the simplest questions?

Are people learning enough on Google searches about where material comes from? It bothers me that many people end the story of discovering something with "I found it on Google."

(Yes, I see the irony in the fact that this is going to show up in Google searches itself.)

Sometimes I think the huge articles that come up as search results are chosen because of only one lonely, obscure word in the search criteria. Is that really any help?

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations has small quotations -- even the Bible is divided into a few verses at a time -- and descriptions of authors, titles and years. The selections for various authors include the years that the person lived, and the publication dates, if known, are included.

I think Winston Churchill did himself, and therefore the world, a great service when he started using Bartlett's as a sort of index to a library.


That's the kind of thing that will keep me "browsing through Bartlett's."

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  • You raise all sorts of questions relevant to editorial judgments in electronic publishing, a field in which I was in.

    Churchill at least understood the difference between primary and secondary sources, in that he used Bartlett's as an entry to the primary sources and read the original authors and looked for more.

    Google (at least its home page; maybe the reviews and other shared pages are different), isn't even supposed to be a source, but an index. One might say that it is a repository of information, but not of knowledge. Maybe my view is based on how the Internet was about 25 years ago, when there were weird indexes pointing users to university sites. But, in essence, Google is only useful if someone clicks on the link and evaluates that document.

    Bartlett's is at least useful as an edited source of that someone said the quotation. A lot of Internet sources (certainly Wikipedia) are not reliable for that purpose. At least Wikipedia says to use and check verifiable sources and not cite it, although I bet very few do.

  • Thank you, Jack. Evaluation and judgment are just the qualities I was hoping people would notice.

  • I'm always thinking outside the box. I'm looking at Churchill's famous victory sign, and thinking :"Wouldn't he have been a great shadow artist?"

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I appreciate your excellent thoughts, my friend. I believe he would have been a great shadow artist -- perhaps as practice for his paintings.

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