Pears’ Cyclopaedia

best-selling one-volume encyclopaedia, issued annually


Reviewed by:
On 14 July 2009
Last modified:5 January 2016


Single volume world information

What is the population of Stockholm? the atomic number of calcium? or the best way to treat frostbite? To get all the answers in a one-volume reference guide, you need Pears Cyclopaedia. Pears’ (not the soap or fruit) is a long-established classic of compressed facts and knowledge. It packs all sorts of topics into a handy desktop book of reference. Editions vary from year to year, but the fundamental sections remain the same. An edition bought at any time will last you for years and years. There’s a potted chronology of world events (starting at 70,000,000 BC); then a list of prominent people, with thumbnail biographies; and sections on literature, art, and music – complete with mini-essays on the major topics covered.

Pears CyclopaediaThe centre of the book is an atlas with a huge index which even lists the position and populations of small villages. There are sections on economic events and political institutions (including recent UK parliamentary statistics); and an encyclopaedia of general knowledge, plus science in the form of chemistry, medicine, computers, and the environment. Ideas and beliefs cover the major world philosophies, and the myths and legends get a section of their own, as does a Biblical glossary.

You have to put up with an absence of page numbers, and strangely enough, the index to the book itself is quite small; but since the entries in most sections are arranged either chronologically or alphabetically, information is easy to locate. This is the work of reference I use most apart from dictionaries and my old copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica. It’s one of those books which you’ll find difficult to put down, once you start browsing. New editions appear in August of each year.

Pears’ Cyclopedia was first produced by the Queen’s soap-makers in 1897 on the occasion of Victoria’s diamond jubilee. It has been revised and updated every year since then, and is still going strong as what the publisher’s rightly claim as ‘the Swiss Army penknife of reference books.

© Roy Johnson 2000

Pears' Cyclopaedia   Buy the book at Amazon UK
Pears' Cyclopaedia   Buy the book at Amazon US

Pears’ Cyclopaedia London: Allen Lane, (issued annually) pp.832, ISBN: 1846143764

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4 Responses to “Pears’ Cyclopaedia”

  1. v kandaruban says:


    I am looking for Pears Encyclopaedia book. Where can I get this book in chennai, India?

  2. mantex says:

    A new version of Pears Encyclopedia appears every year. That means that old copies are easy to buy cheap second hand. Click through to Amazon. They are showing on there for only £3.00 right now.

  3. Isa da Rocha says:

    I do not collect The Pears’ cyclopaedia but have one that is missing the front cover up to page 3 and back cover back to page 1062.
    Maybe you could help to tell me which edition I have and how many pages are missing at the back.Is it possible to have a copy of the missing pages to keep with the rest of the book?
    For identification:
    Page 726 show last page of dictionary of Events up to year 1912 (last event was Señor Canalejas, Spanish Premier, assassinated, 12 November).
    I presume it was then published in 1913.
    It is an amazing book which brings all sorts of different feelings.
    I inherited it from my husband’s family who are South African since 1886.
    I will be very grateful if you could help.

  4. mantex says:

    It’s very difficult to say which edition you have without seeing the contents as a whole then making a calculated guess.

    These sorts of books are easy to pick p in second-hand book shops, because they have almost no commercial value.

    So you could buy copies from the years 1912-1915 if you really wanted to find out.

    Or it’s just possible that a very good library might have copies in their archives.

    The chance of acquiring copies of the missing pages is very slight, unless the library allowed photocopying.

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