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The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index volume in 1914 and later supplementary volumes. It was designed "to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine".
The Catholic Encyclopedia was published by the Robert Appleton Company, a publishing company incorporated at New York in February 1905 for the express purpose of publishing the encyclopedia. The five members of the encyclopedia's Editorial Board also served as the directors of the company. In 1912 the company's name was changed to The Encyclopedia Press. Publication of the encyclopedia's volumes was the sole business conducted by the company during the project's lifetime.
The encyclopedia was designed to serve the Roman Catholic Church, concentrating on information related to the Church and explaining matters from the Catholic point of view. It records the accomplishments of Catholics and others in nearly all intellectual and professional pursuits, including artists, educators, poets and scientists. While more limited in focus than other general encyclopedias, it was far broader in scope than previous efforts at comprehensive Catholic encyclopedias, which had studied only internal Church affairs.
It offers in-depth portrayals of historical and philosophical ideas, persons and events, from a Catholic perspective, including issues that divide Catholicism from Protestantism and other faith communities. Since the encyclopedia was first published starting in 1907 and has never been updated (versus the New Catholic Encyclopedia), many of its entries may be out of date either with respect to the wider culture or to the Catholic ecclesiastical world. In particular, it predates the creation of the Vatican City State (1929) and the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), which introduced many significant changes in Catholic practice: For example, the online version of the entries on Judaism and Islam at newadvent.org states in an editorial note: "To complement this article, which was taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent recommends a prayerful reading of 'Nostra Aetate' from the Second Vatican Council."
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