Classic Adler-Van Doren Video Available


Classic Adler-Van Doren Video on “How to Read a Book” Reborn

Archivist’s diligence unearths lost conversations

CHICAGO, April 3, 2009—Thanks to the diligent sleuthing of an Sedona, Arizona, archivist, a series of classic conversations about the art of reading, between the late philosopher Mortimer J. Adler and his acolyte Charles Van Doren, are once again available on video from Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

The discussions between the two public intellectuals, produced by Britannica in the 1970s, were lost for many years until they were rediscovered recently by Ken Dzugan, archivist for the Center. They’re now available on a single DVD and may be ordered online at

Titled “How to Read a Book,” the video was originally produced in conjunction with the third edition of Adler’s classic book of that title, published in 1972 and coauthored by Van Doren. The book’s first edition was a runaway best seller when it was published in 1940.

After going out of print many years ago, the original videotaped product of the Adler-Van Doren conversations disappeared from Britannica’s records. It would have languished in eternal obscurity had it not been for Dzugan’s pluck. After getting a tip from Center member Steve Rossiter, Dzugan searched through an international database of library holdings, located a library that had the original videotapes, borrowed them and approached Britannica, seeking permission to reproduce them.

“We didn’t even know they existed,” said Michael Ross, a senior vice president at Britannica. “If it hadn’t been for Ken’s indefatigable detective work, they would have been lost forever.”
The payoff for Dzugan and the Center, however, is that they are now the exclusive international distributor of the programs.

“We were thrilled to discover the tapes,” said Max Weismann, director and co-founder of the Center. “’How to Read a Book’ has been a classic for almost 70 years, and to find these excellent conversations that elaborate on the themes in the book was a joy.”

“The Center is the true steward of Mortimer Adler’s legacy, and I know with them marketing this program it’s in good hands,” said Ross.

The DVD includes thirteen programs, each of them fourteen minutes in length, for a total of three hours of video. Each section includes Adler and Van Doren in a lively, candid discussion of the chapters of “How to Read a Book,” in which they discuss the importance of each concept and give examples of how it works in their own reading.

The program titles cover topics such as: to read or not to read, how to keep awake while reading, questions to ask a book, talking back to the author, and several others. The price is a $24.95 donation to the Center.

About the Center
The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas, founded by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann, is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit educational organization. It has two primary missions. One, to help awaken citizens from their moral and intellectual slumbers and help them understand why philosophy is everybody’s business; and to alert them to the possibility of finding sound and practical answers to questions about the good life and good society. Second, the Center seeks to promulgate the insights and ideals in Adler’s lifelong intellectual work in the fields of philosophy, liberal education, ethics and politics.

About Encyclopaedia Britannica
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a leader in educational publishing. The company’s encyclopedias and other products can be found in many media, from the Internet to cell phones to books ( A pioneer in electronic publishing since the early 1980s, the company also still publishes the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica, along with educational online services such as Britannica SmartMath and Britannica Online School Edition and new printed products such as Britannica Illustrated Science Library. Britannica’s editorial operation is overseen by some of the world’s most distinguished scholars. The company makes its headquarters in Chicago.

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