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On this date, 253 years ago

Credit: Gettyimages

The first edition of Encyclopædia Britannica was published

On 10 December 1768, the first edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, the oldest continuously published and revised work in the English language, was published. It was issued in Edinburgh, Scotland by "a society of gentlemen in Scotland" for the engraver Andrew Bell and the printer Colin Macfarquhar. Since then, it became the major English-language work of references and one of the biggest encyclopedias in the world.


At that point in history, the number of facts and information was so huge that it was necessary to collect them in massive compendiums. Although Encyclopædia Britannica was neither the first nor the most exhaustive one when compared to the 68 volumes of Johann Heinrich Zedler's Universal Lexicon or to the French Encyclopédie, whose 17 volumes of text had recently been completed, it proposed a new systematization of the information. As we could read on the encyclopedia's website:

The "new plan" of the Encyclopædia Britannica consisted of including "treatises" on the arts (i.e., practical arts) and sciences in the same alphabetical series as short articles on technical terms and other subjects, with plentiful cross-references from the one type of entry to the other. It was thus intended to satisfy two kinds of readers simultaneously: those wishing to study a subject seriously, who would work their way through the treatises; and those in search of quick reference material, who could instantly turn to what they wanted in its alphabetical order.

Sources: www.britannica.com

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