This is a book about a box that contained the world. The box was the "Picture Academy for the Young, " a popular encyclopedia in pictures invented by preacher-turned-publisher Johann Siegmund Stoy in eighteenth-century Germany. Children were expected to cut out the pictures from the "Academy," glue them onto cards, and arrange those cards in ordered compartments--the whole world filed in a box of images.
As Anke te Heesen demonstrates, Stoy and his world in a box epitomized the Enlightenment concern with the creation and maintenance of an appropriate moral, intellectual, and social order. The box, and its images from nature, myth, and biblical history, were intended to teach children how to collect, store, and order knowledge. te Heesen compares the "Academy" with other aspects of Enlightenment material culture, such as commercial warehouses and natural history cabinets, to show how the kinds of collecting and ordering practices taught by the "Academy" shaped both the developing middle class in Germany and Enlightenment thought. "The World in a Box, " illustrated with a multitude of images of and from Stoy's "Academy, " offers a glimpse into a time when it was believed that knowledge could be contained and controlled.
"This is a truly magnificent book - the most impressive histoire totale of an object that I have read. te Heesen provides a fascinating series of perspectives on the German bourgeois Enlightenment through minute study of the production, physical make-up, marketing, reviewing, and educational uses of Stoy's world in a box." - Nicholas Jardine, University of Cambridge