The Household Cyclopedia Contents About this site Download the Cyclopedia Awards Links
Contents About this site Download the Cyclopedia Awards Links


The Household Cyclopedia is a book of general knowledge printed in 1881. It was scanned and reproduced as a website by me, Matthew Spong, in 1998. See below for more notes on the history of this site.

July 2003

I've embarked on another round of promoting this site through the newsgroups, so I expect a lot of new visitors. This site should be available at this address for awhile, as I have actually paid for my web space this time, and own the domain. Mooching off friends servers and hosting with public portals isn't the right way to go about providing an important resource like this.

I hope you find what you want to find here. Those with an interest in cooking will be interested to know that my next intended work to digitise is Mrs Beetons Book of Household Management, the famous reference work which is mostly a cook book. Very interesting Victorian artifact, most of the recipes involve the use of either a pound of butter or a pint of cream! Yum!

September 2001
Bastards! NBCi seems to have taken down every personal site hosted there.

As mentioned before, NBCi bought Xoom and continued to host the personal sites. However, they seem to have totally dumped my Cyclopedia site, the site you are reading now, into the aether.

Luckily my friend Sammy Ominsky has offered me some web space to host it here on Avoidant. This should be the final home and resting place for this resource, so please update your links and keep an eye out for future developments.

With access to proper CGI space I will be able to add several features you have been asking for. Specifically, I mean the discussion board, and also individual articles for printing.

Instead of splitting the pages into myriad small files, I will develop a script to extract the relevant article from the source file. So, stand by for these developments, coming soon.

March 2001

You will have noticed that this site is no longer hosted by Xoom, but by The company Xoom was bought out by NBC, but hopefully they won't change the terms of service. If they do, you will soon be able to find this site at an alternative venue, possibly privately owned. The original Xoom URL will continue to work for the forseeable future.

Thank you for all the email, please keep it coming. Sometimes I don't get time to reply to it all, but I always like to see how people are using the knowledge contained in this book. Shoutouts go to the many university students who are referencing this work in their papers. Be careful to make sure this site is still accesible when you hand your papers in - remember the net nowadays is more volatile and changes faster than it did in the days before all the morons stuffed it up looking for fast bucks.

I have a couple more works in the pipeline. The first, the Percy Anecdotes, has already been mostly scanned and corrected. It is a collection, in 4 volumes, of a series of anecdotes or short stories supposedly true, as published in several popular papers in London in the early ninteenth century. The second, Picturesque England, is only just being scanned. It is a product of the Victorian era's love of ruins and ancient British history, the account of a tour of all the most popular tourist sites of 19th C. England, illustrated in excellent woodcuts and watercolours. All that remains is to find a stable and trustworthy site to host them, and you will find links from here to them both.

Also, my home page Sludge is no more. The replacement, Haunted Planet, is online with a lot more info about myself, and examples of my work. The best of the Sludge artwork is there too.

Oh, sorry the message board is still a piece of shite. I can't be arsed getting a better one. Someday...

Peace love and erudition,
Matthew Spong

March 1999
Hello again. Firstly, thank you to the many people who have emailed me with their gratitude for this site. What I've noticed is that, many artists and craftsmakers, especially the more experienced ones, have been having much trouble finding specific information about the techniques used in their field in the last century. For instance, some ceramics enthusiasts were very happy to find the instructions for making a clay pipe, saving them days of frustrating experiments as they tried to work out how a thin tubular stem could be made from clay! Many cooks have sent messages regarding the cooking sections, which contain, appart from the recipes, a lot of incidental information, such as the comments on the most favourable cuts of meat and to whom they should be served. Historians too are enthusiastic about the incidental comments which reveal so much about the society at the time this book was written.

There is also a sizable community of millenialists and Y2K experts, who sometimes seem to be preparing for a future similar to the Mad Max/Roadwarrior movies. To them I say; best of luck, I hope you are wrong, and if you are wrong, I hope you continue to maintain your self sufficiency. While I don't believe that the world will grind to a halt, I do believe that practicing and relearning the skills that once enabled people to live without the infrastructure our society provides - the utilities, the shops, the readymade products - can only be a good thing.

The site has just been updated, much of the work has been carried out beneath the surface, but you will notice a few new items. There will soon be a message board, so that readers can post queries and answers. There are many other additions I would like to add, when I have the time. Currently I'm working on an intranet site for a government department, which is a hard slog and leaves me with little taste for working on pages when I get home.

Also, thanks to for providing the best free web hosting on the net today. I know they are soon introducing a banner system, and I hope they get it right. I used to have a site on Fortune City but moved it because of their terrible banners which ruined the look of my pages, especially the narrow frames. Anyway, along with the banner comes unlimited storage, which will be very handy should I decide to do another book. Sitting on my bookshelf right now is the 3 volume Popular Educator of 1887. Someday soon, when I get the time...

August 1998
One day while wandering through the Saturday markets in Glebe, Sydney, I spotted an interesting book on one of the stalls. Bound in decaying leather, with loose pages spilling from within, and "The Household Cyclopedia" in faded gold on the frayed spine. The text inside was small, but quite legible. The pages where only slightly splotched with stains. It was only $10. I paid.

What a bargain! It was soon evident that this was no ordinary book. It was the sort of book a pioneer of the old west would have packed carefully into his covered wagon before heading off for a boondock town. It was a book for people who need to be able, if the circumstances demand, to amputate a limb, grow their own fibre for material, take care of their horses, give birth to children, and build houses, concoct medicines, all with the minimum of help from others.

I work as a web designer, freelancing, and recently my clients have often left me hanging for weeks without notification. This is not a good thing, if you are a nail chewing workaholic like me. Games, even excellent ones like Descent, Doom or Sim City, only satisfy me for so long. They leave no tangible residue, for all the effort they demand. There had to be something better to do, to stop from going mad. One day, looking around for something to justify the time I was spending with an idle computer and perfectly good net account, I noticed the Cyclopedia again. How good it would be, I thought, if the contents of this noble tome were freely available to the world...

So I started work. Whenever there was a free hour or two, I'd slap the book (gently) on the scanner, shoot a few pages, and feed them through my crappy OCR software, carefully editing out as many mistakes as I could spot. Daily the text files grew, and as each chapter was finished, it was converted to HTML and linked into the site. Many more hours were needed to add the hundreds of anchors around each recipe heading, and I'm still linking in the index pages to the existing chapters, even as I'm still scanning in pages of text.

One person whom I must thank for her charity, patience and love, is Michelle Walker, my girlfriend. Too often she has had to talk to my unresponsive back, as I struggled with difficult parts, and she has also had to deal with my other personality (the teutonic, obsessive, monomaniacal one that emerges when I need to beat a difficult problem). As Michelle possesses these qualities herself, she sympathized with my cause, and helped where she could. This is why I love her.

I would also like to thank my father, Neill Spong, who kindly proof-read much of the text before it was uploaded. Thanks dad!

Matthew Spong:,