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Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

From Academic Kids

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge was founded in 1828 in London, mainly at the instigation of Lord Brougham with the objects of publishing information to people who were unable to obtain formal teaching, or who preferred self-education. The aspiring working class and the middle class were its targets. It was sometimes mentioned in contemporary sources as SDUK.

It set out to achieve this by acting as an intermediary between authors and publishers by launching several series of publications. It was run by a committee of eminent persons, and had a close association with the newly formed London University, as well as the numerous provincial Mechanics Institutes. Its printers included Baldwin & Cradock who was succeeded by Charles Knight. The Society commissioned work and dealt with the printers, finally distributed the publications.

While conceived with high ideals the project gradually failed, as subscribers fell away and sale of publications declined. Many of the titles had little interest to readers, but the Penny Magazine at its peak had a circulation of around 200,000 copies a week. The Society eventually wound up in 1848.

  • Library of Useful Knowledge
  • British Almanac
  • Library of Entertaining Knowledge
  • Farmers Series
  • Maps
  • Working Man's Companion
  • Quarterly Journal of Education
  • Penny Magazine
  • Penny Cyclopaedia
  • Gallery of Portraits
  • Biographical Dictionary

References

  • Janet Percival, 'The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1826-1848: A handlist of the Society's correspondence and papers', The Library of University College London, Occasional Papers, No 5 1978, ISSN 0309 3352
  • University College has virtually a complete set of publications and numerous letters from authors and readers and other records.
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