William Pietri wrote:
On 01/23/2010 02:59 AM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen wrote:
William Pietri wrote:
I note that just last night I was browsing EBay
to see what a set of the
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica goes for. For $10, I could get it on DVD.
Or I could pay hundreds for a physical set. I would never buy the DVD,
but I might buy the physical set. And I already own a reproduction of
the 3-volume 1768 edition.
Out of curiosity, how does the three volume edition
I'm not quite sure how to answer that. Is there something you wanted me
to measure it against?
Perhaps that's what's wrong with the question. If we judge those volumes
strictly by 21st century standards most of the contents will fail
miserably. The greatest value that these volumes provide is their
contribution to the historical framework of knowledge. On-line
communities are prone to a recentism that ignores how knowledge got to
where it is and the collective effort and experience that accomplished this.
Personally, I find it a delight, and am prone to
flipping through it
when I'm wondering what exactly an encyclopedia is. More for inspiration
than knowledge, of course. But it's nice to see the familiar features:
articles, large and small; redirects, see-alsos, illustrations,
references; even a proto-NPOV, where on topics of dispute, both sides
I find my copy a delight too, even with all the faux foxing to make it
look old. I also love my copy of the 1701 second edition of Jeremy
Collier's "Great Historical, Geographical, and Poetical Dictionary". It
doesn't use the word "encyclopedia", but still shows enough
characteristics to be called one. My favorite article:
NEW-ZELAND, a large Country of /South America/, or /Antartickland/,
discovered by the /Hollanders/ in 1642. It lies South of the
Pacifick Sea, and far East of /New-Guiny/ and /Solomon/'s Island.
It's not yet known whether it be an Island or Continent, there being
no /European/ Colony settled there./ Baudr[and]/.
The first edition of the Britannica did not include an article about New
My second-favorite thing about it is that the three
volumes, which were
published serially, are A-B, C-L, M-Z. I've always suspected they
started out with a surplus of ambition and then realized what they were
up against. And my favorite thing is the preface, which starts out,
"Utility ought to be the principle intention of every publication."
Reading through it never fails to remind me what a great enterprise an
encyclopedia is, both theirs and ours.
I have a dozen or more encyclopedic works, among which I include
biographical compendia. (I'm finding it tough to acquire the secon
through eighth editions of the EB.) Comparing the way that each treats
the same subject can be fascinating. The detailed articles about World
War I in the 12th edition of the EB were no longer there for the 13th;
the later printings of the 14th edition differed considerably from the
earliest. The "Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada" includes far more from
Spanish speaking countries than what you might find in an English work.
Depending on only one encyclopedia presents a risk of monotonic thinking.