Lynn Thorndike’s vast, multi-volume “History of Magic and Experimental Science” stands as a gigantic monument to the huge amount of, well, stuff that is in the archives but which mainstream historians circa 1920 thought to be unworthy of discussion. Thankfully, things have now changed somewhat!

Kessinger Publishing has reprinted much of Thorndike’s work: but (unless I’ve misinterpreted things) their modern print-on-demand reprints seem to be about £25 for 200-ish page segments, whereas copies of the original eight volumes (published in pairs in 1923, 1934, 1941, and 1958, and each volume of which is 600-700 pages) go second hand for £30 or so.

Even something like Thorndike’s “History of Medieval Europe” can be picked up for £5 or less, while the Kessinger POD reprint is more than £20. Bizarre economics!

As with David Kahn, everyone namechecks Thorndike: but few have read all 6,000-odd pages of the HoMaES series. I’ll admit it: though to date I’ve only ever read sections as required, one day I’ll read the whole lot… I hope!

All in all, there really doesn’t (unless you know better?) seem to be a Thorndike 2.0, a decent modern alternative to HoMaES in (say) only 1,500 pages or less. So even 50 years on from Vols VII and VIII, the new Thorndike is still Thorndike!

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