“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”*…
The Athenian Oracle – a sort of 17th-century version of Quora – had its roots in The Athenian Mercury, a magazine published twice a week in London between 1690 and 1697. Its Editor-in-Chief John Dunton had come upon the idea of having an advice column in the magazine, giving the readers a chance to send in their questions which would then be answered by a group of experts. This group, called The Athenian Society, consisted of a Dr Norris, the mathematician Richard Sault, the clergyman and author Samuel Wesley, as well as Dunton himself. The questions received by the society covered everything from natural sciences and philosophy to literature and religion, and in 1703, they were collected and published as The Athenian Oracle. Questions range from why horses neigh or how dew is produced, to asking if there is a cure for stammering, as well as philosophical questions on what happiness is – or what death is. Some of the questions were written by women, resulting in a spin-off called The Ladies’ Mercury which was published for four weeks in 1693 and was the first periodical specifically aimed for women.
All will be answered– page through “The Athenian Oracle (1820).”
As we celebrate certitude, we might recall that it was on this date in 1717 that, as the announcement of the event had it:
A catalogue of curious and valuable books, belonging to the late reverend & learned, Mr. Ebenezer Pemberton, consisting of divinity, philosophy, history, poetry, &c. Generally well bound, to be sold by auction, at the Crown Coffee-House in Boston, the second day of July 1717. Beginning at three a clock afternoon, and so, de die in diem, until the whole be sold. Also a valuable collection of pamphlets will then be exposed to sale. The books may be viewed from the 25th day of June, until the day of sale, at the house of the late Reverend Mr. Pemberton, where attendance will be given.
… the first book auction held in America. The proceeds helped educate the recently-departed Mr. Pemberton’s son, also named Ebenezer, who went on to become a celebrated minister whose sermons were widely circulated in print.