The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Encyclopædia

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Encyclopædia
Edition of 1920. See also Encyclopedia on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ENCYCLOPÆDIA, CYCLOPÆDIA, or CYCLOPEDIA. This word, formed from the Greek en, in, kuklos, a circle, and paideia, instruction, but not a native Greek compound, originally denoted the whole circle of the various branches of knowledge which were comprehended by the ancients in a liberal education (the artes liberales of the Romans). The distinction between the words encyclopædia and cyclopædia is almost too trifling to be comprehended. At a later period the word was applied to every systematic view, either of the whole extent of human knowledge or of particular departments of it. The want of such general surveys was early felt; and as knowledge increased they became still more desirable, partly for the purpose of having a systematic arrangement of the sciences in their mutual relations, partly for the readier finding of particular subjects; and, for these two reasons, such works were sometimes philosophically, sometimes alphabetically, arranged. The spirit of compiling, which prevailed in the Alexandrian School, soon led to attempts remotely allied to this, and Varro and Pliny the Elder, among the Romans, composed works of a similar kind.

The honor of undertaking encyclopædias on a regular plan belongs to the Middle Ages, which produced not only a large number of cyclopædias of particular sciences, called Summæ or Specula (for example, the ‘Summa Theologiæ’ of Thomas Aquinas), but also a Universal Encyclopædia, such as had never been seen before. The indefatigable Dominican, Vincent of Beauvais, about the middle of the 13th century, exhibited the whole sum of the knowledge of the Middle Ages in a work — or rather three works — of considerable size — a real treasure to the inquirer into the literary history of the Middle Ages. An exceedingly popular work was the ‘De Proprietatibus Rerum’ of Bartholomeus de Glanvilla, an English Franciscan friar, which maintained its reputation from the year 1360 to the middle of the 16th century. In the 17th century various encyclopædic works were compiled, such as the Latin one of John Henry Alsted, ‘Encyclopædia vii Tomis distincta’ (Herborn 1620), a work in which the subjects are divided into 7 classes, and treated in 35 books. In 1674 appeared the first edition of Moréri's ‘Le Grand Dictionnaire Historique.’ In 1677 John Jacob Hoffman published at Basel his ‘Lexicon Universale,’ the first work of the kind in which a summary of art and science was presented in dictionary form. In 1697 appeared Bayle's famous ‘Dictionnaire Historique et Critique’ (Rotterdam, 4 vols.), a work which is still of great value. Among the greatest works of earlier date would have been reckoned the ‘Biblioteca Universale’ of Coronelli, had it been completed according to the original plan. It was to have appeared in 45 folio volumes, of which only seven were published (Venice 1701-06). More successful, especially in being brought to a completion, was the ‘Grosses vollständiges Universallexicon aller Wissenschaften und Künste’ (Grand Universal Lexicon of all the Arts and Sciences), commonly called Zedler's, from the person, a bookseller, who conducted it (Halle and Leipzig 1732-50, 64 vols.; Supplement 1751-54, 4 vols, folio). It has, on the whole, much merit. Lives of living men were included after volume XVIII.

The transition from the ancient type to the modern occurred about the middle of the 17th century and originated in the desire to make books of this kind more easy of consultation. This changed the arrangement of the material by classified subjects to its alphabetical arrangement by key words, names or special topics. The encyclopædia thus approached and was assimilated to the dictionary. The change was not confined to the form, for the alphabetical arrangement inevitably led to a change in the purpose and character of encyclopædic compilation, viz., that from the exposition of the system of human knowledge to the mechanical arrangement of its contents. In this line of its development the encyclopædia became a work of reference in the strict sense of that word — a work for occasional use, in which any particular topic or item of information desired can be found under the proper word in an alphabetical vocabulary. This practical aim and this method have, however, been adopted by modern encyclopædists in varying degrees. On the one hand, there has been a tendency to approach more and more closely to the dictionary type by increasing the number and variety of the vocabulary words, and correspondingly subdividing the material contained in the book; and, on the other, a tendency (traceable to the ancient systematic type) to restrict the vocabulary and combine the material as much as possible under comprehensive titles. In its extreme form the former tendency has given rise to the modern “encyclopædic dictionary,” and the latter to encyclopædias which are little or nothing but aggregations of monographs.

In practice, however, encyclopædia makers incline more and more toward the adoption of the dictionary type, as better suited to the practical needs of scientific and literary workers and as, in faot, essential to the adequate presentation of the vast accumulations of modern science, history and biography. An important characteristic of modern methods is the employment of a large corps of specialists, both as compilers and as editors. In general it may be said that no good general encyclopædia is now possible which does not include in its editorial staff a small army of men of science, historians, theologians, lawyers, and so on. The aim is to collect at first hand the special knowledge of the time and to present it in a manner that is acceptable to specialists. Lastly, the use of pictorial illustrations — plates and diagrams and pictures in the text, which found a place in encyclopædias at an early date — has been extended and their quality improved.

The first encyclopædia written in English and with the articles alphabetically arranged was the ‘Lexicon Technicum,’ or a ‘Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences’ (London 1704, 1 vol. folio), by John Harris, a London clergyman. This was a useful and popular work, though it omitted from its scope theology, biography, antiquity and poetry. It was reprinted in 1708 and a second volume was added in 1710. Among other important encyclopædic works in English the following may be mentioned: Ephraim Chamber's ‘Cyclopædia’; or a ‘Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences’ — a work published in 1728, in two volumes folio. A second and improved edition came out in 1738. Latterly it was revised and enlarged by Abraham Rees, in which form it was several times reprinted, being finally known as ‘Rees' Cyclopædia,’ and published in a number of volumes. Then was published the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’ Of this there have been 11 editions. The first edition was completed in 1771, in three volumes and the 11th edition was completed in 1910-11 in 29 volumes and an index volume. The ‘Edinburgh Encyclopædia’ (1810-30, 18 vols.) was devoted particularly to the sciences and technology and was conducted by Sir David Brewster. The ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana’ (London, begun 1815, completed 1845, in 25 vols., was published in four divisions, according to a plan devised by the poet Coleridge). The ‘London Encyclopædia,’ by Thomas Curtis (22 vols.) and the ‘Penny Cyclopædia’ (29 vols.), appeared in 1833-46. Chambers' ‘Encyclopædia’ (in 10 vols.) was published in 1860 and a new edition appeared in 1902.

During the 19th century, the various branches of science and technology, history, biography, theology, commerce, politics, law, the fine arts, etc., are all admirably represented in special works; the growth of the special encyclopædia having kept pace with the advance of knowledge and of industry. Among the most important are the encyclopædias of biography. Some excellent examples of the special encyclopædia date from the 17th and 18th centuries; but those produced in the 19th century are much more numerous and, in several cases, far more comprehensive. The most notable of these later biographical works are the ‘Biographie uniyerselle ancienne et moderne’ (85 vols., 1811-62, including supplement; 2d ed., 45 vols., 1842-65) of Joseph and Louis Gabriel Michaud; and the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’ (66 vols., 1st supplement, 3 vols., 1885-1901; 2d supplement, 3 vols., 1901-11; republished in 22 vols., 1913).

In the United States an early work in the general field was the ‘Encyclopædia Americana,’ edited by Francis Lieber and published 1st ed., 13 vols., 1829. ‘The American Cyclopædia,’ edited by George Ripley and Charles A. Dana, appeared in 1858-76 in 16 volumes. The publishers of this work have since 1861 published the ‘American Annual Cyclopædia,’ designed to record the progress of science and the arts, and the world's history from year to year, and to serve as supplements to the ‘American Cyclopædia.’ It is in the same form as that work, octavo, and comprises about 800 pages per volume. ‘Johnson's New Universal Cyclopædia’ first appeared in 1874-77, in four imperial octavo volumes. It was especially strong in the departments of natural science — physics, chemistry, mechanics, etc. — and American gazetteer matter. In its later form, ‘Johnson's Universal Cyclopædia’ (1893-95, 8 vols.), with a change of publishers, the work was thoroughly revised, by a corps of 36 editors, under the direction of Charles Kendall Adams. Then followed ‘The International Cyclopædia’ (New York 1884), which was succeeded by ‘The New International Encyclopædia’ in 20 volumes (1902; 2d ed., 24 vols., 1914), and later by the ‘Encyclopedia Americana’ (1st ed., 16 vols., 1903; 2d ed., 20 vols., 1906; 3d ed., 22 vols., 1910; new and enlarged edition, revised throughout, 30 vols., 1918).

Of the French cyclopædias the most famous is the great ‘Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts, et des Métiers,’ by Diderot and D'Alembert. This was published in 35 volumes 1751-80. Not only information was given in these volumes, but opinions of the most radical character, hostile to the Church, subversive of religion, intensely antagonistic toward everything in the old order of things. The clergy and the court had fought the work, had even broken into it with alterations secretly made at the printers', and left no stone unturned to prevent its circulation. Yet Europe was filled with it and shaken with the effects of it. It was an immense burst of everything which journalism to-day means; a fierce prophecy of changes which are still pending; a wild proclamation of the problems of human aspiration and desire. Not only were the sciences pushed to the utmost by Diderot, but he made industry, labor, human toil in the shop, an interest unceasingly cherished. It was an explosion heralding the Revolution a quarter of a century later. Still more comprehensive is the ‘Encyclopédie Méthodique, ou par Ordre des Métieres’ (Paris 1781-1832, in 166½ vols.), an aggregate of dictionaries rather than a single work. The French have also the ‘Encyclopédie Moderne,’ begun in 1824, finished in 1832, 26 volumes, and subsequently republished; the ‘Encyclopedic des Gens du Monde’ (1835-44), 22 volumes; Larousse's more recent and valuable ‘Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIX Siècle,’ 16 volumes folio (with two supplementary volumes); ‘La Grande Encyclopédie,’ an extensive and excellent work which was completed in 1903, and ‘Dictionnaire encyclopédique universel, illustré de 20,000 figures,’ edited by E. Flammarion and begun in 1895. Of works published in Germany the most famous is ‘Brockhaus' Conversations-Lexikon,’ now in its 14th edition. It is equaled, if not surpassed, by the similar work of Meyer. The huge ‘Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste,’ originally edited by Profs. J. S. Ersch and J. G. Gruber, begun 1818, is not yet completed. To 1916 168 volumes have been issued. Three sections of the alphabet are carried on simultaneously. Other German encyclopædias deserving mention are those of Pierer and Spamer.

In Italian, the ‘Nuova Enciclopedia popolare’ (14 vols., Turin, 1841-51); the ‘Dizionario universale di scienze, lettere ed arti’ (Milan 1874), by Lessona and Valle; the ‘Enciclopedia popolare italiana’ (ib. 1872), edited by Giovanni Berri, and ‘Nuova enciclopedia italiana’ (25 vols., Turin 1875-88), are the principal. In Spanish Mellando published the ‘Enciclopedia moderna’ (34 vols., with an atlas) at Madrid in 1848-51. Another Spanish work of note is Montaner y Simon, ‘Diccionario enciclopédico Hispano-Americano de literature, ciencias, y artes’ (25 vols., Barcelona 1887-99); the greatest of all such works in Spanish is the new ‘Enciclopédia Segui,’ begun at Barcelona in 1907 and of which nine volumes had appeared up to 1916. The ‘Diccionario popular historico, geographico, mythologico, etc.’ (16 vols., Lisbon 1876-90), by Chaga; ‘Diccionario universal portuguez illustrado,’ by Zeforina, are the standard works in Portuguese. Other works deserving of notice are Salmonsen's ‘Store illustrerede Konversationsleksikon’ (19 vols., Copenhagen 1891-1911) in Danish; the ‘Geillustreerde encyclopedie: woordenboek for wetenschap en kunst’ (2d ed., 16 vols., Rotterdam 1884-88); ‘Nordisk Familyebok’ (Stockholm 1904-, 15 vols, to 1911); ‘Entisiklopeditchesky Slovar’ (41 vols., Petrograd 1890-1904) and ‘Encyclopedya Powszechna, etc.’ (16 vols., Warsaw 1898-1904).

The rapid advancement of the sciences and arts and the proportionately rapid communication between all civilized nations, have made a general acquaintance with many different branches of knowledge more necessary than ever before. This is one of the chief causes which have produced in our time so many encyclopædias of various kinds, some very learned and others more adapted for the general reader; some embracing all the sciences and arts, others only single branches.