The New Student's Reference Work/Encyclopædia
Ency′clopæ′dia, meaning general instruction, is a work professing to give information in regard to the whole circle of human knowledge or in regard to everything in some division of it. The older encyclopædias attempted to give everything then known on all subjects; but, as knowledge has increased, it has become more and more necessary, in order to say something about everything, to be content not to say everything about anything. The great Latin collections of Terentius Varro, dating from 30 B. C., and the Natural History of Pliny the Elder are the first works which can in any sense be called encyclopædias. In the 10th century the Arabian, Farabi, wrote an encyclopædia remarkable for the time. Vincent of Beauvais, under the patronage of Louis IX of France, gathered together the whole knowledge of the middle ages. The first modern English work of the kind was the anonymous Universal, Historical, Geographical, Chronological and Classical Dictionary, which appeared in 1803. The Cyclopædia of Ephraim Chambers, in 1728, was the first to use cross-references. It was a French translation of this work which Diderot used in making the famous Encyclopédie, which became the organ of the most advanced and revolutionary thought of the time, and gave a name, the Encyclopedists, to a party of philosophers and politicians. The great Encyclopedia Britannica first appeared at Edinburgh in 1768-71, and has since gone through ten editions. Other popular encyclopaedias are Charles Knight's Penny Cyclopedia and Chambers' New Encyclopedia. Of American works may be mentioned The Americana, the New International and the Universal Cyclopedia.