The Early Britannica

BookThe Early Britannica

The Early Britannica

The Growth of an Outstanding Encyclopedia

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2009:10


October 1st, 2009

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The Encyclopaedia britannica is a familiar cultural icon, but what do we know about the early editions that helped shape it into the longest continuously published encyclopedia still in existence?
This first examination of the three eighteenth-century editions traces the Britannica’s extraordinary development into a best seller and an exceptional book of knowledge, especially in biography and in the natural sciences. The combined expertise of the contributors to this volume allows an extensive exploration of each edition, covering its publication history and evolving editorial practices, its commentary on subjects that came in and out of fashion and its contemporary reception. The contributors also examine the cultural and intellectual milieu in which the Britannica flourished, discussing its role in the Scottish Enlightenment and comparing its pressrun, contents, reputation, and influence with those of the much more reform-minded Encyclopédie.

'This collective effort produces extremely useful detail , marking the changing content of successive editions and thus giving clues to what was seen as novel or in need of revision. […] with its painstaking detail and awareness of the Scottish Enlightenment context, The Early Britannica: The growth of an outstanding Encyclopedia provides a valuable basis for future comparative work on the European encyclopedic project.'
- Isis

'The contributors have conducted an extraordinarily thorough investigation of the Encyclopaedia britannica. [...] They have unearthed valuable information about the editors and contributors to the first three editions and present compelling evidence about the range and treatment of their sources. This volume could greatly contribute to our understanding of the state of knowledge at the end of the eighteenth century.'
- Judith Hawley, Royal Holloway, University of London

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Table of Contents8
List of figures10
Acknowledgements FRANK A. KAFKER and JEFF LOVELAND12
William Smellie’s edition (1768-1771): a modest start FRANK A. KAFKER and JEFF LOVELAND26
James Tytler’s edition (1777-1784): a vast expansion and improvement KATHLEEN HARDESTY DOIG, FRANK A. KAFKER, JEFF LOVELAND and DENNIS A. TRINKLE84
Colin Macfarquhar, George Gleig and possibly James Tytler’s edition (1788-1797): the attainment of recognition and eminence KATHLEEN HARDESTY DOIG, FRANK A. KAFKER and WILLIAM E. MORRIS, with the assistance of MARION A. BROWN and JEFF LOVELAND172
George Gleig’s Supplement to the third edition (1801-1803): learned and combative KATHLEEN HARDESTY DOIG, FRANK A. KAFKER and JEFF LOVELAND268
Epilogue: the tortoise and the hare: the longevity of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Encyclopédie compared FRANK A. KAFKER314