In Praise of Reference-Book Authors

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In an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment reportedly bursting with books, file folders, news clippings, and index cards, Joseph Nathan Kane spent several decades compiling some of the most widely used reference works in publishing history. In 1933, the H.W. Wilson Company published his first book, Famous First Facts. Containing about 3,000 entries describing first discoveries, inventions, and other landmark events, this 757-page volume elicited the following enthusiastic comment in a