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The Catalog

Catalogs - Tools
A catalog page for catalogs.

Whole Earth Catalog was printed, for the most part, between 1969 and 1974. Folio-sized newsprint happened to be inexpensive at the time, so that became the format that Stewart Brand and his compatriots settled on. The layouts, while appearing to be an almost haphazard DIY "zine" in nature, were carefully considered by the publishing team and made with equipment that at the time was considered quite advanced. The catalog developed a distinct visual style, in many ways similar to the Sears & Roebuck catalogs of the early century - at a time when appearing "advanced" and "modern" were at the forefront of major publishers.

Every entry in the catalog gave explicit means for obtaining the items in question, whether it was from a company, available through the Whole Earth Truck Store (as their physical incarnation in Menlo Park was still referred to), an agency or non-profit, or even a note that a book was out of print but useful to track down. Appended to most entries was a note about how or why it was important or useful, with the contributor's name attached (or initials for most of the staff). This assured readers that everything was thoroughly reviewed and neither useless nor of questionable qualities. The items themselves spanned a wide range of things, from simple hand tools to parts for irrigation systems, films available from NASA to Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book. The philosophy and education aspects occupied at least as much space as the physical products; the knowledge of how to build a geodesic dome, systematic approaches to wide-scale issues, or seeking spiritual enlightenment being just as important tools in Whole Earth as any farming implement.