Family Reference Books: Encyclopedia Britannica Questions & Answers Part 1

About the Encylopedia Britannica a reference book recommended for all families, a list of questions we asked the book and its answers.

Recommended for the Family Reference Shelf


Our Questions

1. Who was the German author who became famous for his cowboy and Indian stories about the American Wild West, although he had never set foot in the U.S.?

2. Was there a real-life Omar Khayyam?

3. What was the name of the renowned Polish pianist who was one of the signers of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919?

Answers provided by Encyclopaedia Britannica

1. Karl May, born in Germany in 1842, died there in 1912, was the "author of travel and adventure stories for young people, dealing with desert Arabs or with American Indians in the Wild West, remarkable for the realistic detail that the author, who never traveled outside Germany, was able to achieve. A weaver's son, May was an elementary schoolteacher until arrested for theft and apparently began writing while in prison." May produced 60 books. There is a Karl May Museum in Radebeul "containing North American Indian collections."

2. Omar Khayyam, possibly born in 1048 in Nishapur, Persia, died in 1122, was a "poet, mathematician, and astronomer, known to English-speaking readers for his Rubaiyat ('Quatrains') in the version published by Edward FitzGerald (1859)." The name Khayyam meant "tentmaker." He became known for a treatise he wrote in Arabic on algebra. The Sultan retained him to make astronomical observations for a reformed calendar. Omar took a pilgrimage to Mecca, often served in court predicting future events. "Omar's popularity in the West is based on his discovery by the English Victorian poet Edward FitzGerald, who freely translated many of the quatrains attributed to Omar and arranged them in a continuous elegy.... Some scholars have doubted that Omar wrote poetry, since his contemporaries took no notice of his verse and it was not until 2 centuries later that a few quatrains appeared under his name. A 20th-century student, Ali Dashti, concluded in In Search of Omar Khayyam (1971) that of the 1,000 quatrains originally attributed to Omar, 102 are authentic."

3. Ignace Paderewski, born in Russian Poland in 1860, died in New York City in 1941, was the "Polish pianist, composer, and statesman, who persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to include a paragraph on Polish independence in his famous Fourteen Points and who was prime minister of Poland in 1919.... He impressed most critics, notably George Bernard Shaw, as the leading pianist of his time, remarkable both for his musical culture and his mind. His personality on the concert platform, like that of Liszt, his predecessor among piano virtuosos, generated a mystical devotion.... His premiership was not a success. As a virtuoso, Paderewski was accustomed to flattery and he resented criticism."

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