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Encyclopædia Britannica

Encyclopædia Britannica
Britannica's logo of a blue thistle
Britannica's thistle logo
Author As of 2008, 4,411 named contributors
Illustrator Several; initial engravings by Andrew Bell
Country United Kingdom (1768–1901)
United States (1901–present)
Language English
Subject General
Published
Publisher Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Official site
Publication date
1768–2010 (printed version)
Media type 32 volumes, hardbound (15th edition, 2010); now only available digitally
Pages 32,640 (15th edition, 2010)
ISBN
OCLC 71783328
031
LC Class AE5 .E363 2007
Text at

The Encyclopædia Britannica (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia"), published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia. It is written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors, who have included 110 Nobel Prize winners and five American presidents. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages, was the last printed edition; digital content and distribution has continued since then.

The Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in production. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, as three volumes. 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 has 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 is 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.


Edition/supplement Publication years Size Sales Chief editor(s) Notes
1st 1768–1771 3 volumes, 2,391 pages. The numbers were bound in three equally sized volumes covering Aa–Bzo, Caaba–Lythrum, and Macao–Zyglophyllum; an estimated 3,000 sets were eventually sold, priced at 12 pounds sterling apiece. pages, 160 plates 3,000 William Smellie Largely the work of one editor, Smellie; 3,000 sets sold; 30 articles longer than three pages
2nd 1777–1784 10 volumes, 8,595 pages, 340 plates 1,500 James Tytler Largely the work of one editor, Tytler; 150 long articles; pagination errors; all maps under "Geography" article; 1,500 sets sold
3rd 1788–1797 18 volumes, 14,579 pages, 542 plates 10,000 or 13,000 Colin Macfarquhar and George Gleig £42,000 profit on 10,000 copies sold; first dedication to monarch; pirated by Moore in Dublin and Thomas Dobson in Philadelphia
supplement to 3rd 1801, revised in 1803 2 volumes, 1,624 pages, 50 plates George Gleig Copyright owned by Thomas Bonar
4th 1801–1810 20 volumes, 16,033 pages, 581 plates 4,000 James Millar Authors first allowed to retain copyright. Material in the supplement to 3rd not incorporated due to copyright issues.
5th 1815–1817 20 volumes, 16,017 pages, 582 plates James Millar Reprint of the 4th edition. Financial losses by Millar and Andrew Bell's heirs; EB rights sold to Archibald Constable
supplement to 5th 1816–1824 6 volumes, 4,933 pages, 125 plates1 10,500 Macvey Napier Famous contributors recruited, such as Sir Humphry Davy, Sir Walter Scott, Malthus
6th 1820–1823 20 volumes Charles Maclaren Reprint of the 4th and 5th editions with modern font. Constable went bankrupt on 19 January 1826; EB rights eventually secured by Adam Black
7th 1830–1842 21 volumes, 17,101 pages, 506 plates, plus a 187-page index volume 5,000 Macvey Napier, assisted by James Browne, LLD Widening network of famous contributors, such as Sir David Brewster, Thomas de Quincey, Antonio Panizzi; 5,000 sets sold
8th 1853–1860 21 volumes, 17,957 pages, 402 plates; plus a 239-page index volume, published 18612 8,000 Thomas Stewart Traill Many long articles were copied from the 7th edition; 344 contributors including William Thomson; authorized American sets printed by Little, Brown in Boston; 8,000 sets sold altogether
9th 1875–1889 24 volumes, plus a 499-page index volume labeled Volume 25 55,000 authorized plus 500,000 pirated sets Thomas Spencer Baynes (1875–80); then W. Robertson Smith Some carry-over from 8th edition, but mostly a new work; high point of scholarship; 10,000 sets sold by Britannica and 45,000 authorized sets made in USA by Little, Brown in Boston and Schribners' Sons in NY, but pirated widely (500,000 sets) in the U.S.3
10th,
supplement to 9th
1902–1903 11 volumes, plus the 24 volumes of the 9th. Volume 34 containing 124 detailed country maps with index of 250,000 names 4 70,000 Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace and Hugh Chisholm in London; Arthur T. Hadley & Franklin Henry Hooper in New York City American partnership bought EB rights on 9 May 1901; high-pressure sales methods
11th 1910–1911 28 volumes, plus volume 29 index 1,000,000 Hugh Chisholm in London, Franklin Henry Hooper in New York City Another high point of scholarship and writing; more articles than the 9th, but shorter and simpler; financial difficulties for owner, Horace Everett Hooper; EB rights sold to Sears Roebuck in 1920
12th,
supplement to 11th
1921–1922 3 volumes with own index, plus the 29 volumes of the 11th5 Hugh Chisholm in London, Franklin Henry Hooper in New York City Summarised state of the world before, during, and after World War I
13th,
supplement to 11th
1926 3 volumes with own index, plus the 29 volumes of the 11th6 James Louis Garvin in London, Franklin Henry Hooper in New York City Replaced 12th edition volumes; improved perspective of the events of 1910–1926
14th 1929–1933 24 volumes 7 James Louis Garvin in London, Franklin Henry Hooper in New York City Publication just before Great Depression was financially catastrophic
revised 14th 1933–1973 24 volumes 7 Franklin Henry Hooper until 1938; then Walter Yust, Harry Ashmore, Warren E. Preece, William Haley Began continuous revision in 1936: every article revised at least twice every decade
15th 1974–1984 30 volumes 8 Warren E. Preece, then Philip W. Goetz Introduced three-part structure; division of articles into Micropædia and Macropædia; Propædia Outline of Knowledge; separate index eliminated
1985–2010 32 volumes 9 Philip W. Goetz, then Robert McHenry, currently Dale Hoiberg Restored two-volume index; some Micropædia and Macropædia articles merged; slightly longer overall; new versions were issued every few years. Last printed edition.

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