Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Funk and Wagnalls

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Status  Defunct
Publication types  Books
Founded  1875
Parent organization  WORLD BOOK INC.
Successor  World Book
Founder  Isaac K. Funk
Country of origin  United States of America
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Key people  George Alfred Hartley - Key financial contributor

Funk & Wagnalls was an American 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).


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).

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.


Isaac Kaufmann Funk founded the business in 1875 as I.K. Funk & Company. 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.

In 1913, the New Standard Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language was published under the supervision of Isaac K. Funk (Editor -in-Chief). The New Standard Unabridged Dictionary was revised up to 1943, a later edition that was also supervised by Charles Earl Funk.

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."

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

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, encouraging consumers to include the latest volume of the encyclopedia on their shopping lists. Grocery stores in the 1970s in the Midwest (Chicago – Jewel Grocers) typically kept about four volumes in a rotation, dropping the last and adding the latest until all volumes could be acquired with the initial first volume being 99 cents. The first several volumes were gold painted along the edges and the later volumes were not. These volumes typically were $2.99 and then toward the later volumes the price had gone up with the inflation of the 1970s. If one did not go shopping on a weekly basis, or delivery was spotty, there was a good chance that a volume might be missed to complete the set.

In 1965, Funk & Wagnalls Co. was sold to Reader's Digest.

In 1971 now Funk and Wagnalls, Incorporated, (as opposed to Company) was sold to Dun & Bradstreet. Dun and Bradstreet retained Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, but other reference works were relinquished to other publishers.

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.

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

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

Ripplewood Holdings bought Primedia's education division in 1999, which became part of Reader's Digest Association in 2007. In 2009, Funk & Wagnalls was acquired by World Book Encyclopedia.

After failing to purchase rights to use of the text of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and World Book Encyclopedia for its Encarta digital encyclopedia, Microsoft reluctantly used under license the text of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia for the first editions of their encyclopedia. This licensed text was gradually replaced over the following years with content Microsoft created itself.


  • 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
  • 1901/1906 – The Jewish Encyclopedia, 12 volumes
  • 1906 – The World's Famous Orations, 10 volume set
  • 1909 – Standard Bible Dictionary
  • 1912 – Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia
  • 1913 - 1943 The New Standard Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Two volumes
  • 1915 – Women of all nations: a record of their characteristics, habits, manners, customs, and influence, Volume 1
  • 1915 – Women of all nations: a record of their characteristics, habits, manners, customs, and influence, Volume 2
  • 1915 – Women of all nations: a record of their characteristics, habits, manners, customs, and influence, Volume 3
  • 1920 – Funk and Wagnall's Student's Standard Dictionary of the English language [Hardcover]
  • 1927 – The World's One Hundred Best Short Stories, 10 volumes
  • 1929 – Pocket Library of the World's Essential Knowledge, 10 volumes
  • 1929 – The World's 1000 Best Poems, 10 volumes
  • 1936 – A New Standard Bible Dictionary
  • 1946 - Funk and Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary, 2 volumes Re-Copyrighted in 1949, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 1955 ***First hand account from volumes dated 1955.
  • 1949/50 – Funk & Wagnalls standard dictionary of folklore, mythology and legend, 2 volumes. A one-volume edition with minor revisions was released in 1972.
  • 1957 – The Fashion Dictionary
  • 19?? – Funk & Wagnalls standard handbook of synonyms, antonyms, and prepositions
  • 1968 – Handbook of Indoor Games & Stunts [Paperbook F58]
  • 1971 – 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
  • 1974 – Funk & Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia
  • 1974 – Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary (2nd Edition)
  • 1980 – The New Funk & Wagnalls Illustrated Wildlife Encyclopedia
  • 1986 – Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia of Science
  • 1996 – Funk & Wagnalls World Atlas
  • References

    Funk & Wagnalls Wikipedia