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Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition
Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition

The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (19101911) is a 29-volume reference work that marked the beginning of the Encyclopædia Britannica's transition from a British to an American publication. Some of its articles were written by the best-known scholars of the day. The articles are still of value and interest to modern scholars as cultural artifacts of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This edition of the encyclopedia is now in the public domain, but some of its out-of-date content makes its use as a source for modern scholarship problematic.


[edit] Background

The 1911 eleventh edition was assembled under the leadership of American publisher Horace Everett Hooper, and edited by Hugh Chisholm. Originally, Hooper purchased the rights to the 25-volume ninth edition and persuaded the British newspaper The Times to issue its reprint, with eleven additional volumes (35 volumes total) as the tenth edition, which appeared in 1902. Hooper's association with The Times ceased in 1909, and he negotiated with the Cambridge University Press to publish the 29-volume eleventh edition. Though it is generally perceived as a quintessentially British work, the eleventh edition had substantial American influences,[citation needed] not only in the increased amount of American and Canadian content,[citation needed] but also in the efforts made to give it a more popular tone.[citation needed] American marketing methods also assisted sales. Some 11% of the contributors were American, and a New York office was established to run that side of the enterprise.[citation needed]

The initials of the encyclopedia's contributors appear at the end of each article (at the end of a section in the case of longer articles, such as that on China) and a key is given in each volume to these initials. Some articles were written by the best-known scholars of the day, such as Edmund Gosse, J. B. Bury, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Muir, Peter Kropotkin, T. H. Huxley and William Michael Rossetti. Among the lesser-known contributors were some who would later become distinguished, such as Ernest Rutherford and Bertrand Russell. Many articles were carried over from the ninth edition, some with minimal updating, some of the book-length articles divided into smaller parts for easier reference, yet others heavily abridged. The best-known authors generally contributed only a single article or part of an article. Most of the work was done by a mix of journalists, British Museum and other scholars. The 1911 edition for the first time saw a number of female contributors, with thirty-four women contributing articles to the edition.[1]

The eleventh edition introduced a number of changes to the format of the Britannica. It was the first to be published complete, instead of the previous method of volumes being released as they were ready. The type was kept in galleys and subject to continual updating until publication. It was the first edition of Britannica to be issued with a comprehensive index volume in which was added a categorical index, where like topics were listed. It was the first to break away from the convention of long treatise-length articles; even though the overall length of the work was roughly the same as its predecessor, the number of articles had increased from 17,000 to 40,000. It was the first edition of Britannica to contain biographies of living people.

According to Coleman and Simmons, p 32[2] the content of the encyclopedia was made up as follows:

Subject Content
Geography 29%
Pure and applied science 17%
History 17%
Literature 11%
Fine art 9%
Social science 7%
Psychology 1.7%
Philosophy 0.8%

Hooper sold the rights to Sears Roebuck of Chicago in 1920, completing the Britannica's transition into becoming a substantially American venture.[citation needed]

In 1922, an additional three volumes were published, covering the events of the intervening years, including the First World War. These, together with a reprint of the eleventh edition, formed the twelfth edition of the work. A similar thirteenth edition, of three volumes plus a reprint of the twelfth edition, was published in 1926, so the twelfth and thirteenth editions were of course closely related to the eleventh edition and shared much of the same content. However, it became increasingly clear that a more thorough update of the work was required. The fourteenth edition, published in 1929, saw a considerable revision of the text, with much being dropped or shortened to make room for new topics; nevertheless the eleventh edition was the basis of every later version of the Encyclopædia Britannica until the completely new fifteenth edition, using modern information presentation, was published in 1974.

The eleventh edition's articles are still of value and interest to modern readers and scholars, especially as a cultural artifact: the British Empire was at its very height, imperialism was largely unchallenged, much of the world was still ruled by monarchs, and the horrors of the modern world wars were still in the future. They are an invaluable resource for topics dropped from modern encyclopedias, particularly in biography and the history of science and technology. As a literary text, the encyclopedia holds value as a voice of early 20th-century prose. For example, it employs literary devices, such as the pathetic fallacy, which are not as common in modern texts.[2]

[edit] Notable commentaries on the Eleventh Edition

1913 advertisement for the eleventh edition
1913 advertisement for the eleventh edition

In 1917, under his pseudonym of S. S. Van Dine, the US art critic and author Willard Huntington Wright published Misinforming a Nation, a 200+ page criticism of inaccuracies and biases found in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition. Wright claimed that Britannica was "characterized by misstatement, inexcusable omissions, rabid and patriotic prejudices, personal animosities, blatant errors of fact, scholastic ignorance, gross neglect of non-British culture, an astounding egotism, and an undisguised contempt for American progress."

Amos Urban Shirk, who read both the entire eleventh and fourteenth editions in the 1930s, said he found the fourteenth edition to be a "big improvement" over the eleventh, stating that "most of the material had been completely rewritten".

Robert Collison, in Encyclopaedias: Their History Throughout The Ages (1966), wrote of the eleventh edition that it "was probably the finest edition of the Britannica ever issued, and it ranks with the Italiana and the Espasa as one of the three greatest encyclopaedias in the world. It was the last edition to be produced almost in its entirety in Britain, and its position in time as a summary of the world's knowledge just before the outbreak of World War I is particularly valuable."

Sir Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood (1974), wrote of the eleventh edition, "One leaps from one subject to another, fascinated as much by the play of mind and the idiosyncrasies of their authors as by the facts and dates. It must be the last encyclopaedia in the tradition of Diderot which assumes that information can be made memorable only when it is slightly coloured by prejudice. When T. S. Eliot wrote 'Soul curled up on the window seat reading the Encyclopædia Britannica,' he was certainly thinking of the eleventh edition." (Clark refers to Eliot's 1929 poem Animula.)

[edit] 1911 Britannica in the 21st century

The 1911 edition is no longer restricted by copyright, and it is available in several more modern forms. While it may have been a reliable description of the general consensus of its time, for modern readers, the Encyclopedia has several glaring errors, ethnocentric remarks, and other issues:

  • Contemporaneous beliefs about race and ethnicity often prevailed in the Encyclopedia's articles, to the detriment of their factual accuracy. For example, the entry for "Negro" states, "Mentally the negro is inferior to the white... the arrest or even deterioration of mental development [after adolescence] is no doubt very largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take the first place in the negro's life and thoughts."[3] The article about the American War of Independence attributes the success of the United States in part to "a population mainly of good English blood and instincts".[4]
  • Some articles are out of date with the most recent findings. For example the article about the origins of the Huns.[citation needed]
  • Many articles are now factually outdated, in particular those on science, technology, international and municipal law, and medicine. For example, the article on the vitamin deficiency disease beriberi speculates that it is caused by a fungus, vitamins not having been discovered at the time. Articles about geographic places mention rail connections and ferry stops in towns that today no longer employ such transport.
  • Even where the facts might still be accurate, new information, theories and perspectives developed since 1911 have substantially changed the way the same facts might be interpreted. For example, the modern interpretation of the history of the Visigoths is very different from that reflected in the eleventh edition which used the now out-of-favor Great man theory,[citation needed] such that there are no entries for Visigoth or Goth; rather the history of the tribe is found under the entry for Alaric I.

The eleventh edition of Encyclopædia Britannica has become a commonly quoted source, both because of the reputation of the Britannica and because it is now in the public domain and has been made available on the Internet. It has been used as a source by many modern projects including Wikipedia and the Gutenberg Encyclopedia.

[edit] Gutenberg Encyclopedia

The Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia is actually the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, renamed to address Britannica's trademark concerns. As of November 2007, Project Gutenberg only holds an electronic version of Volume 1 (in ASCII text only), the first portion of Volume 2, and part of volume 4. Distributed Proofreaders are currently working on producing a complete electronic edition of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which will be available from Project Gutenberg when finished. Proofreading has been completed with these volumes, and the final postprocessing and assembly is currently underway for volumes 2 through 5, and formal proofreading on volume 6.

Section From To Links
Volume 1:   A   –   Androphagi [1]
Volume 2.1.1:   Andros, Sir Edmund   –   Anise [2]
Volume 4.3:   Bréquigny   –   Bulgaria [3]
Volume 4.4:   Bulgaria   –   Calgary [4]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Gillian Thomas (1992). A Position to Command Respect: Women and the Eleventh Britannica New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0810825678.
  2. ^ a b *All There is to Know (1994), edited by Alexander Coleman and Charles Simmons. Subtitled: "Readings from the Illustrious Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica". ISBN 067176747X
  3. ^ Willcox, Walter Francis (1911). "Negro". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition) Volume XIX. New York: Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 344. Retrieved on 2007-01-10. 
  4. ^ Hannay, David (1911). "American War of Independence". Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition) Volume I. New York: Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 845. Retrieved on 2007-01-10. 

[edit] External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

[edit] Free, public-domain resources

The following text was named "The Gutenberg Encyclopedia," because at the project's inception, the original publisher still has a valid trademark on the original title of the encyclopedia, although the text itself was in the public domain in the United States.

Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia
Section From To
Volume 1:   A   –   Androphagi
Volume 2.1.1:   Andros, Sir Edmund   –   Anise
Volume 4.3:   Bréquigny   –   Bulgaria
Volume 4.4:   Bulgaria   –   Calgary


  • The entire collection can be downloaded through the Pirate Bay website link.

http download in djvu format

[edit] Versions claiming copyright

  • 1911 LoveToKnow Classic Encyclopedia World Wide Web edition, "based on" the 1911 encyclopædia. It is sourced from a raw, unproofread OCR-scanned version, without the illustrations: it contains a number of errors, many of them serious, as for example when the beginning of one article is spliced to the end of another with the intervening material missing, or tabular material is garbled across the columns, or anything in a non-Latin script. Around July 10, 2006, the site was relaunched as a wiki using MediaWiki software. Wikilinks have been inserted, apparently automatically, and often with odd results. The wiki allows contributors to correct transcription and linking errors, and to add new information in "what's new" pages. It also allows the original Encyclopædia Britannica text to be corrupted by contributors; for example, as of September 14, 2007, the article Mormons contains unreverted substantive changes to the main text that had been in place for five months.
An introductory page reads, in part: To the extent permitted by applicable law, all content, including but not limited to edits, changes and additions are © 2002 - 2006 by LoveToKnow Corp. This implies that the content should not be regarded to be in the public domain. Determining actual copyright status may require legal advice.
  • Online 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica World Wide Web, OCR-scanned version of the encyclopædia, that has scanning errors. This source is very unreliable; for example, long articles (such as "Telescope") may contain only the first quarter of the original information. Links have been inserted, apparently automatically and frequently irrelevant. There are also French and German translations, of unknown origin. Readers are invited to submit corrections and additions using a web form, and the content cannot be assumed to be original 1911 material. At the bottom of a page the following footnote can be seen: Site content, images, and layout Copyright © 2008 - Net Industries, worldwide.

[edit] Articles about the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition