In 1936 H. G. Wells issued a small pamphlet of 32 pages entitled The Idea of a World Encyclopaedia, publishing a lecture he had delivered at The Royal Institution on November 20, 1936. The lecture was republished in the United States in the April 1937 issue of Harpers Magazine.
In 1938 Methuen publishers issued a volume of Wells's essays and speeches on this theme entitled World Brain. In this book his 1936 speech was renamed simply "World Encyclopedia." The 1938 book included an essay entitled "The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia." This essay first appeared in the new Encyclopédie Française, August, 1937. Another essay in the book entitled "The Brain Organization of the Modern World" described Wells' vision for
". . .a sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared." (p. 49)
Wells believed that technological advances such as microfilm could be utilized towards this end so that
"any student, in any part of the world, would be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica" (p. 54).
In his ideas for a "mental clearing house" Wells was probably influenced by "Die Brucke" and its Goals for a World Information Clearing House.
Pages 72-73 of World Brain reproduced an early information graphic entitled "Knowledge Correlated through a World Encyclopaedia."
♦Aspects of Wells's vision were eventually realized on the Internet through the Wikipedia in ways that Wells could not have imagined.
Börner, Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know (2010) 25ff.
W. Boyd Raward, "H.G. Wells's Idea of a World Brain: A Critical Reassment," Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50 (1999) 557-573.