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Funk & Wagnalls is a publisher known for its reference works, including A Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1st ed. 1894), and the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia (25 volumes, 1st ed. 1912).[1]

The encyclopedia was renamed to Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia in 1931, and was later known as New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, Universal Standard Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia, and Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (29 volumes, 1st ed. 1971),[1]

The last printing of Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia was in 1997,

The I.K. Funk & Company, founded in 1875, was renamed to Funk & Wagnalls Company after two years, and later became Funk & Wagnalls Inc., then Funk & Wagnalls Corporation.[1]



Isaac Kaufmann Funk founded the business in 1875 as I.K. Funk & Company.[1] In 1877, Adam Willis Wagnalls, one of Funk's classmates at Wittenberg College (now Wittenberg University), joined the firm as a partner. and the name of the firm was changed to Funk & Wagnalls Company.

During its early years, Funk & Wagnalls Company published religious books. The publication of The Literary Digest in 1890 marked a shift to publishing of general reference dictionaries and encyclopedias. The firm published The Standard Dictionary of the English Language (OCLC 19715240) in 1894 and Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia (OCLC 1802064) in 1912.

The encyclopedia was based upon Chambers's Encyclopaedia: "Especially are we indebted to the famous Chambers's Encyclopaedia...With its publishers we have arranged to draw upon its stores as freely as we have found it of advantage so to do."[2]

Wilfred J. Funk, the son of Isaac Funk, was president of the company from 1925-1940.

Prior to 1965, the Unicorn Press (later known as the Standard Reference Work Publishing Co.) obtained the rights to publish the encyclopedia, and by 1953 that firm began to sell the encyclopedia through a supermarket continuity marketing campaign[1], encouraging consumers to include the latest volume of the encyclopedia on their shopping lists.

In 1965, Funk & Wagnalls Co. was sold to Reader's Digest. Under the name Funk & Wagnalls Inc., it was sold to Dun & Bradstreet in 1971. The company retained Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, but other reference works were relinquished to other publishers.[1]

In 1984, Dun & Bradstreet sold Funk & Wagnalls Inc. to a group of Funk & Wagnalls executives, who in turn sold it to Field Corporation in 1988.[1]

In 1991, the company was sold to K-III Holdings, Inc,, and in 1993 Funk & Wagnalls Corporation acquired the World Almanac.[1]

In 1998, as part of the Information division of Primedia Inc. (the renamed K-III), the encyclopedia content appeared on the web site "". This short-lived venture was shut down in 2001.

The encyclopedia exists today only as an electronic reference, Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, provided to educational institutions by the World Almanac Education Group.

Ripplewood Holdings bought Primedia's education division in 1999, which became part of Reader's Digest in 2007.

Some content from the encyclopedia became a part of Microsoft's Encarta digital encyclopedia.

Popular culture

In the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Funk and Wagnalls became part of one of the iconic jokes on the ground-breaking show Laugh-In, where a frequently-made reference was "Go look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls", a play on the perceived profanity in the word "funk".

Johnny Carson's Carnac the Magnificent sketches on The Tonight Show frequently made reference to the 'answers' being hidden from Carnac as "hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar under Funk & Wagnalls' porch since noon today."

In the South Park episode "Cancelled", Cartman asks: "What the Funk and Wagnalls are you talking about?"

In the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century 1979 episode "Planet of the Slave Girls", Buck, argues with fellow pilot Major Duke Danton in-flight, "If you call that interference, there's something wrong with your Funk & Wagnalls." Danton, unaware of the centuries-old origin of the statement, replies, "I don't know what you mean by that, but how'd you like to repeat that in the flight hangar?"

In The West Wing, White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg says "Thank you, Funk & Wagnall's." in a Season 1 episode in reference to a comment by Toby Ziegler that "Direction and track are two different words."


  • 18?? - The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary on the Old Testament
  • 18?? - The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary on the New Testament
  • 1890 – The Literary Digest
  • 1894 – The Standard Dictionary of the English Language
  • 1909 - Standard Bible Dictionary
  • 1912 – Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia
  • 1927 – The World's One Hundred Best Short Stories (Ten Volumes)
  • 1936 – A New Standard Bible Dictionary
  • 19?? – Funk & Wagnalls standard handbook of synonyms, antonyms, and prepositions
  • 19?? – Funk & Wagnalls standard dictionary of folklore, mythology and legend
  • 19?? – Standard Dictionary of the English Language (International Edition)
  • 19?? – Poetry handbook; a dictionary of terms
  • 1971 – Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia
  • 1973 – Funk & Wagnalls Guide to modern world literature
  • 19?? - Funk & Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia
  • 19?? - The New Funk & Wagnalls Illustrated Wildlife Encyclopedia
  • 19?? – Funk & Wagnalls world atlas[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1996
  2. ^ Publishers' Preface, Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia, 1912
  3. ^ search


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