1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chisholm, Hugh

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CHISHOLM, HUGH (1866- ), editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, was born in London Feb. 22 1866, of Scottish descent. His father, Henry Williams Chisholm (see 25.772), was the son of Henry Chisholm (1769–1832) — private secretary and librarian for many years to Lord Grenville (auditor of the Exchequer: Prime Minister 1806-7), by whom he was given a clerkship in the Exchequer,[1] eventually becoming senior clerk in the Exchequer Bill Office and King's Agent for Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast — whose paternal grandfather had left Inverness-shire and settled in London early in the 18th century. Henry Williams Chisholm (1809–1901) entered the Exchequer in 1824 with a nomination from Lord Grenville, rising to be head of its official staff in 1862 as chief clerk; and on the abolition of the Exchequer in 1866 as a Government department coördinate with the Treasury, he was appointed, under the Weights and Measures Act (1867), head of the newly created Standards Department of the Board of Trade, occupying the old Exchequer office at 7, Old Palace Yard, Westminster, with the official title of Warden of the Standards. At the Exchequer he had become a recognized authority on public finance; and his “Great Account” (see 10.58), published in 1869 as a Parliamentary Return in 3 vols., dealing in detail with the history — unrecorded till then — of the public revenue and expenditure of Great Britain and Ireland since 1688, and of the origins of the whole British fiscal system, was the outcome of 10 years' laborious research. As Warden of the Standards he was the British delegate to the International Metric Commission at Paris from 1870 to 1875, and took a leading part, as a member of its permanent scientific committee, in preparing and constructing the newly adopted international standards. At the desire of the Government, his retirement from office was postponed for this purpose till the end of 1876, when he had been 52 years in the public service. His “Recollections of an Octogenarian Civil Servant” were published in Temple Bar (Jan. to April 1891).

Educated at Felsted school, and at Oxford as a scholar of Corpus, Hugh Chisholm graduated in 1888 with a first class in Literae Humaniores, and then read for the bar, being “called” at the Middle Temple in 1892; but he had already then drifted into London journalism. From 1892 to 1897 he was assistant-editor, and from 1897 to the end of 1899 editor, of the St. James's Gazette (see 19.561); and during these years he also contributed numerous articles on political, financial and literary subjects to the weekly journals and monthly reviews, becoming well known as a literary critic and Conservative publicist. On resigning the editorship of the St. James's, he became a leader-writer for the Standard, and later in 1900 was invited to join The Times, under whose management he acted as the responsible co-editor, with Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace and President Hadley of Yale University, of the new volumes, constituting the 10th ed. (1902), of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1903 he was appointed editor-in-chief of the 11th ed., which was completed under his direction in 1910, and published as a whole by the Cambridge University Press, in 29 vols., in 1911. He subsequently planned and edited the Britannica Year-book (1913). Rejoining The Times in 1913 as day-editor, and a director of The Times Publishing Co., he became financial editor at the end of that year, and occupied this responsible position all through the momentous period of the World War, resigning his connexion with The Times in March 1920 in order to reassume the editorship of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and to organize the publication of the New Volumes constituting the 12th edition.


  1. A set of the 5th ed. and supplement of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, inherited by his son and grandson, was purchased by him out of the allowance made for “stationery” to clerks of the Exchequer in those days a form of perquisite in addition to salary.