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A Product of its Time

You've probably never heard of Wilder Publications. To the extent this small publishing house is known at all, it's known for bowdlerizing classic works and putting them out under its own copyright. It's also become mildly infamous for the disclaimer it slaps on every book it publishes, from Kant's Critiques to the United States Constitution.

This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.

In certain contexts, I can understand the value of such a disclaimer. For example, before your teenager reads The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the first time, you might want to have an uncomfortable discussion about the history of the n-word and the inappropriateness of using it today.

But is it necessary to slap the disclaimer generically on every classic work of fiction or nonfiction? Have we reached the point where people take offense so easily that they need to be warned before reading older books?

One day, someone from a future generation will pick up a Wilder Publications book and be amused at the disclaimer in the front—a disclaimer that is surely a product of its time.

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