Encyclopedia Britannica


November 28, 2021

The Encyclopedia Britannica (in Latin Encyclopædia Britannica) is one of the principal encyclopedias in the English language; its first edition is dated 1768-71 in Edinburgh, Scotland, as Encyclopædia Britannica, or, A dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Compiled upon a New Plan. Despite its name, its publishing house, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., has been based in Chicago in the northern United States since 1901.


From the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, the voices of Britannica were often cited by many as the main authority on a given subject, and sometimes included new theories or research aimed at an audience of scholars. During this era, Britannica gained a high reputation and held a unique position in English-speaking culture. The role of the encyclopedia, however, changed substantially in the early twentieth century, and this is reflected in editions of Britannica since the eleventh century. Encyclopedias have become more generalist works and aimed at a wider audience, with shorter and more easily readable entries. They no longer serve as an authoritative reference on a topic: in the modern era, a wide range of academic journals, textbooks, specialized publications and digital sources have taken the place of the encyclopedia. Today, Britannica has also evolved into digital versions available on CD-ROM, DVD-ROM and through the World Wide Web. It has survived fierce competition from an ever-increasing number of information sources. In 2012, Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., announced that the 2010 edition will be the last to be printed in print and that the print accounted for only 1% of the company's sales. commonly regarded as accurate, reliable and well written, and the encyclopedia continues to be consulted as a general reference work.


The Britannica was published in 15 editions, with multi-volume supplements in the third and fifth editions. The 10th edition was only a supplement to the 9th, just as the 12th and 13th editions supplemented the 11th. The 15th edition underwent a massive reorganization in 1985 and the current updated version is still recognized as the 15th. Throughout history, Britannica has had two goals: to be an excellent source of reference and to provide educational material. In 1974, the 15th edition set a third goal: to systematize all human knowledge. The history of Britannica can be divided into five periods, interspersed with changes in the management and / or reorganization and re-indexing of the dictionary.


A product of the Scottish Enlightenment, Britannica was originally published in Edinburgh in the second half of the 18th century. The first Britannica was born from the mind of Colin Macfarquhar, a bookseller and printer, and Andrew Bell, an engraver, who published the work under the pseudonym Society of Gentlemen. The editor was the scholar William Smellie, at the time 28, who was offered £ 200 to produce the encyclopedia in 100 parts and three volumes. The first part appeared in December 1768, at a price of six pence. In 1771 the encyclopedia was completed, with 2 391 pages and 160 engraved illustrations. An estimated 3,000 copies were sold. Thanks to the success of the first edition, a second, more ambitious edition followed. This time Smellie turned down the role of editor, and Macfarquhar took over himself, aided by James Tytler. The second edition was eventually published from 1777 to 1784 in 10 volumes, for a total of 8 595 pages. It was however the third edition, published 1788–1797 and edited by Macfarquhar and after his death by George Gleig, that finally realized the encyclopedic vision. The third edition didn't just cover a broader scope, with

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