Page:EB1911 - Volume 01.djvu/17

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xviii
EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION

essentials of the comprehension of scholarly books, which are made unreadable by the use of diacritical signs and unpronounceable spellings, culture cannot advance except within the narrowest of sects. This incompatibility is bad for the public, but it is also bad for scholarship. While the general reader Need of com-
mon ground.
is repelled, the Orientalist is neglected, - to the loss of both. This criticism, which substantially applies to many other formal aspects of modern learning, may be unwelcome to the professors, but it is the result of an extended experience in the attempt to bring accurate knowledge into digestible shape for the wide public for whom the Encyclopædia Britannica is intended. It is indeed partly because of the tendency of modern science and modern scholarship to put the artificial obstacles of a technical jargon in the path of people even of fairly high education, that it becomes imperative to bring both parties upon a common ground, where the world at large may discover the meaning of the learned research to which otherwise it is apt to be a stranger.

With regard to the various departments of natural science, there was a tendency in previous editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica to make inclusive treatises of the longer articles, and Scientific
articles.
to incorporate under the one general heading of the science itself matter which would more naturally form a separate, if subordinate, subject. An attempt has now been made to arrange the material rather according to the heading under which, in an encyclopædia, students would expect to find it. In any text-book on Light, for instance, the technical aspects of aberration, refraction, reflection, interference, phosphorescence, &c., would be discussed concurrently as part of the whole science, in so many chapters of a continuous treatise. But each such chapter or subdivision in a treatise becomes in an encyclopædia arranged on the Value of the
encyclopædia
method.
dictionary plan, matter to be explained where the appropriate word occurs in the alphabetical order of headings. Under the name of the common subject of the science as a whole, its history and general aspects are discussed, but the details concerned with the separate scientific questions which fall within its subject-matter - on each of which often a single specialist has unique authority - are relegated to distinct articles, to the headings of which the general account becomes, if required, a key or pointer. This arrangement of the scientific material - a general article acting as pointer to subsidiary articles, and the latter relieving the general account of details which would overload it - has been adopted throughout the Eleventh Edition; and in the result it is believed that a more complete and at the same time more authoritative survey has been attained, within the limits possible to such a work, than ever before. The single-treatise plan, which was characteristic of the Ninth Edition, is not only cumbrous in a work of reference, but lent itself to the omission altogether, under the general Compared with
that of a single
treatise.
heading, of specific issues which consequently received no proper treatment at all anywhere in the book; whereas the dictionary plan, by automatically providing headings throughout the work, under which, where appropriate, articles of more or less length may be put, enables every subject to be treated, comprehensively or in detail, yet as part of an organic whole, by means of careful articulation adapted to the requirements of an intelligent reader.

In preparing the Eleventh Edition a useful check on the possibility of such accidental omissions as are apt to occur when the treatise plan is pursued, was provided by the decision, arrived at Dictionary
headings.
independently of any question of subdivision, to revert more closely to the original form of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and to make separate headings of any words which, purely as words, had any substantial interest either for historical or philological reasons, or as requiring explanation even for English-speaking readers.[1] The labours of Sir James Murray and his colleagues on the Oxford New English Dictionary, which has only become accessible since the Ninth Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published, have enabled a precise examination to be made of all the possible headings of this kind. Such words, or groups of words, together with proper names, personal, geographical, zoological, etc., obviously exhaust the headings

  1. Though, in pursuance of the ideal of making the whole book self-explanatory, a great many purely technical terms have been given their interpretation only in the course of the article on the science or art in which they are used, even these are included, with the correct references, among the headings in the Index. Similarly, biographical accounts are given of far more persons than have separate biographies. The Index in all such cases must be consulted, whether for word or name.