Encyclopædia Britannica

Encyclopædia Britannica
Britannica's logo of a blue thistle
Britannica's thistle logo
AuthorAs of 2008, 4,411 named contributors
IllustratorSeveral; initial engravings by Andrew Bell
  • United Kingdom (1768–1901)
  • United States (1901–present)
Publication date
1768–2010 (printed version)
Media type32 volumes, hardbound (15th edition, 2010); available digitally until 2012; after that unavailable
Pages32,640 (15th edition, 2010)
LC ClassAE5 .E363 2007
TextEncyclopædia Britannica at Wikisource

The Encyclopædia Britannica (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia"), formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia. It was written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes[1] and 32,640 pages, was the last printed edition.

The Britannica is the English-language encyclopaedia/encyclopedia that was in print for the longest time: it lasted 244 years. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, as three volumes. (This first edition is available in facsimile.) The encyclopaedia grew in size: the second edition was 10 volumes, and by its fourth edition (1801–1810) it had expanded to 20 volumes. Its rising stature as a scholarly work helped recruit eminent contributors, and the 9th (1875–1889) and 11th editions (1911) are landmark encyclopaedias for scholarship and literary style. Beginning with the 11th edition and following its acquisition by an American firm, the Britannica shortened and simplified articles to broaden its appeal to the North American market. In 1933, the Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to adopt "continuous revision", in which the encyclopaedia is continually reprinted, with every article updated on a schedule. In March 2012, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. announced it would no longer publish printed editions, and would focus instead on Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

The 15th edition had a three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles (generally fewer than 750 words), a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles (two to 310 pages), and a single Propædia volume to give a hierarchical outline of knowledge. The Micropædia was meant for quick fact-checking and as a guide to the Macropædia; readers are advised to study the Propædia outline to understand a subject's context and to find more detailed articles. Over 70 years, the size of the Britannica has remained steady, with about 40 million words on half a million topics. Though published in the United States since 1901, the Britannica has for the most part maintained British English spelling.

Present status

Print version

15th edition of the Britannica. The initial volume with the green spine is the Propædia; the red-spined and black-spined volumes are the Micropædia and the Macropædia, respectively. The last three volumes are the 2002 Book of the Year (black spine) and the two-volume index (cyan spine).

Since 1985, the Britannica has had four parts: the Micropædia, the Macropædia, the Propædia, and a two-volume index. The Britannica's articles are found in the Micro- and Macropædia, which encompass 12 and 17 volumes, respectively, each volume having roughly one thousand pages. The 2007 Macropædia has 699 in-depth articles, ranging in length from 2 to 310 pages and having references and named contributors. In contrast, the 2007 Micropædia has roughly 65,000 articles, the vast majority (about 97%) of which contain fewer than 750 words, no references, and no named contributors.[2] The Micropædia articles are intended for quick fact-checking and to help in finding more thorough information in the Macropædia. The Macropædia articles are meant both as authoritative, well-written articles on their subjects and as storehouses of information not covered elsewhere.[3] The longest article (310 pages) is on the United States, and resulted from the merger of the articles on the individual states. The 2013 edition of Britannica contained approximately forty thousand articles.[4]

Information can be found in the Britannica by following the cross-references in the Micropædia and Macropædia; however, these are sparse, averaging one cross-reference per page.[5] Hence, readers are recommended to consult instead the alphabetical index or the Propædia, which organizes the Britannica's contents by topic.[6]

The core of the Propædia is its "Outline of Knowledge", which aims to provide a logical framework for all human knowledge.[7] Accordingly, the Outline is consulted by the Britannica's editors to decide which articles should be included in the Micro- and Macropædia.[7] The Outline is also intended to be a study guide, to put subjects in their proper perspective, and to suggest a series of Britannica articles for the student wishing to learn a topic in depth.[7] However, libraries have found that it is scarcely used, and reviewers have recommended that it be dropped from the encyclopaedia.[8] The Propædia also has color transparencies of human anatomy and several appendices listing the staff members, advisors, and contributors to all three parts of the Britannica.

Taken together, the Micropædia and Macropædia comprise roughly 40 million words and 24,000 images.[6] The two-volume index has 2,350 pages, listing the 228,274 topics covered in the Britannica, together with 474,675 subentries under those topics.[5] The Britannica generally prefers British spelling over American;[5] for example, it uses colour (not color), centre (not center), and encyclopaedia (not encyclopedia). However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as defense rather than defence.[9] Common alternative spellings are provided with cross-references such as "Color: see Colour."

Since 1936, the articles of the Britannica have been revised on a regular schedule, with at least 10% of them considered for revision each year.[5][10] According to one Britannica website, 46% of its articles were revised over the past three years;[11] however, according to another Britannica web-site, only 35% of the articles were revised.[12]

The alphabetization of articles in the Micropædia and Macropædia follows strict rules.[13] Diacritical marks and non-English letters are ignored, while numerical entries such as "1812, War of" are alphabetized as if the number had been written out ("Eighteen-twelve, War of"). Articles with identical names are ordered first by persons, then by places, then by things. Rulers with identical names are organized first alphabetically by country and then by chronology; thus, Charles III of France precedes Charles I of England, listed in Britannica as the ruler of Great Britain and Ireland. (That is, they are alphabetized as if their titles were "Charles, France, 3" and "Charles, Great Britain and Ireland, 1".) Similarly, places that share names are organized alphabetically by country, then by ever-smaller political divisions.

In March 2012, the company announced that the 2010 edition would be the last printed version. This was announced as a move by the company to adapt to the times and focus on its future using digital distribution.[14] The peak year for the printed encyclopaedia was 1990 when 120,000 sets were sold, but it dropped to 40,000 in 1996.[15] 12,000 sets of the 2010 edition were printed, of which 8,000 had been sold as of 2012.[16] By late April 2012, the remaining copies of the 2010 edition had sold out at Britannica's online store. As of 2016, a replica of Britannica's 1768 first edition is sold on the online store.[17]

Related printed material

Britannica Junior was first published in 1934 as 12 volumes. It was expanded to 15 volumes in 1947, and renamed Britannica Junior Encyclopædia in 1963.[18] It was taken off the market after the 1984 printing.

Children's Britannica

A British Children's Britannica edited by John Armitage was issued in London in 1960.[19] Its contents were determined largely by the eleven-plus standardized tests given in Britain.[20] Britannica introduced the Children's Britannica to the US market in 1988, aimed at ages seven to 14.

In 1961 a 16 volume Young Children's Encyclopaedia was issued for children just learning to read.[20]

My First Britannica is aimed at children ages six to 12, and the Britannica Discovery Library is for children aged three to six (issued 1974 to 1991).[21]

There have been and are several abridged Britannica encyclopaedias. The single-volume Britannica Concise Encyclopædia has 28,000 short articles condensing the larger 32-volume Britannica;[22] there are authorized translations in languages such as Chinese[23] and Vietnamese.[24][25] Compton's by Britannica, first published in 2007, incorporating the former Compton's Encyclopedia, is aimed at 10- to 17-year-olds and consists of 26 volumes and 11,000 pages.[26]

Since 1938, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. has published annually a Book of the Year covering the past year's events. A given edition of the Book of the Year is named in terms of the year of its publication, though the edition actually covers the events of the previous year. Articles dating back to the 1994 edition are included online.[27][better source needed] The company also publishes several specialized reference works, such as Shakespeare: The Essential Guide to the Life and Works of the Bard (Wiley, 2006).

Optical disc, online, and mobile versions

The Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2012 DVD contains over 100,000 articles.[28] This includes regular Britannica articles, as well as others drawn from the Britannica Student Encyclopædia, and the Britannica Elementary Encyclopædia. The package includes a range of supplementary content including maps, videos, sound clips, animations and web links. It also offers study tools and dictionary and thesaurus entries from Merriam-Webster.

Britannica Online is a website with more than 120,000 articles and is updated regularly.[29][not in citation given] It has daily features, updates and links to news reports from The New York Times and the BBC. As of 2009, roughly 60% of Encyclopædia Britannica's revenue came from online operations, of which around 15% came from subscriptions to the consumer version of the websites.[30] As of 2006, subscriptions were available on a yearly, monthly or weekly basis.[31] Special subscription plans are offered to schools, colleges and libraries; such institutional subscribers constitute an important part of Britannica's business. Beginning in early 2007, the Britannica made articles freely available if they are hyperlinked from an external site. Non-subscribers are served pop-ups and advertising.[32]

On 20 February 2007, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. announced that it was working with mobile phone search company AskMeNow to launch a mobile encyclopaedia.[33] Users will be able to send a question via text message, and AskMeNow will search Britannica's 28,000-article concise encyclopaedia to return an answer to the query. Daily topical features sent directly to users' mobile phones are also planned.

On 3 June 2008, an initiative to facilitate collaboration between online expert and amateur scholarly contributors for Britannica's online content (in the spirit of a wiki), with editorial oversight from Britannica staff, was announced.[34][35] Approved contributions would be credited,[36] though contributing automatically grants Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. perpetual, irrevocable license to those contributions.[37]

On 22 January 2009, Britannica's president, Jorge Cauz, announced that the company would be accepting edits and additions to the online Britannica website from the public. The published edition of the encyclopaedia will not be affected by the changes.[38] Individuals wishing to edit the Britannica website will have to register under their real name and address prior to editing or submitting their content.[39] All edits submitted will be reviewed and checked and will have to be approved by the encyclopaedia's professional staff.[39] Contributions from non-academic users will sit in a separate section from the expert-generated Britannica content,[40] as will content submitted by non-Britannica scholars.[41] Articles written by users, if vetted and approved, will also only be available in a special section of the website, separate from the professional articles.[38][41] Official Britannica material would carry a "Britannica Checked" stamp, to distinguish it from the user-generated content.[42]

On 14 September 2010, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. announced a partnership with mobile phone development company Concentric Sky to launch a series of iPhone products aimed at the K-12 market.[43] On 20 July 2011, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. announced that Concentric Sky had ported the Britannica Kids product line to Intel's Intel Atom-based Netbooks[44][45] and on 26 October 2011 that it had launched its encyclopedia as an iPad app.[46] In 2010, Britannica released Britannica ImageQuest, a database of images.[47]

In March 2012, it was announced that the company would cease printing the encyclopaedia set, and that it would focus more on its online version.[48][49]

On 7 June 2018, Britannica released a Google Chrome extension, Britannica Insights, which shows snippets of information from Britannica Online in a sidebar for Google search results.[50] The Britannica sidebar does not replace Google's sidebar and is instead placed above Google's sidebar.[50]

Other Languages
Ελληνικά: Encyclopædia Britannica
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: এনসাইক্লোপিডিয়া ব্রিটানিকা
Bahasa Indonesia: Encyclopædia Britannica
Lëtzebuergesch: Encyclopædia Britannica
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Encyclopædia Britannica
Simple English: Encyclopædia Britannica
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Encyclopædia Britannica
українська: Encyclopædia Britannica
Tiếng Việt: Encyclopædia Britannica
文言: 大英百科