The 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica comes with the Robinson Curriculum on CD-ROMs. Since purchasing the Robinson Curriculum for our family, I’ve had time to look over this particular encyclopedia and I’ve been really impressed both with how much information it contains and how well-written it is. Although it is old (1910-1911), there is no doubt that the scholarship is exceptional. Dr. Robinson extols its virtues on his web site and since reading many of the entries, I now do the same.
I was intending to post a sample entry from that edition so that visitors to this blog could get a taste of its comprehensiveness (and also for other reasons), but as I began to type every word of the entry, I realized that I could also hyperlink certain words to Ixquick searches so that people could find out further information about those subjects. During the hyperlinking process, I decided to click on some of the Ixquick search results to see what was out there.
After a few clicks, I found myself…at an entry…taken from…the 1911 edition of the Encylopædia Britannica! Apparently, there are other people who think this edition is outstanding and, as it is in the public domain, have endeavored to put each entry of it online. Here is what they say about it:
The LoveToKnow Free Online Encyclopedia is based on what many consider to be the best encyclopedia ever written: the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, first published in 1911. At a time when many encyclopedias have capsulated and condensed important knowledge, the 11th edition is generally much more in-depth and thorough on its topics.
It is not uncommon for its entries to be 5 to 10 times the length of other encyclopedias. As a research tool, this 11th edition is unparalleled – even today. LoveToKnow is now giving you all these thousands of entries, preserving the treasured entries that make it so unique, and where necessary and possible adding the current point of view. We hope that you enjoy and learn from the LoveToKnow Free Online Encyclopedia and that it becomes one of your favorite places for reference information.
The Eleventh Edition filled 29 volumes and contains over 44 million words. It contains over 40,000 articles written by over 1,500 authors within their various fields of expertise. What was particularly remarkable was that many of the entries were written by the most famous people of the age. As such, it was considered to represent the sum of human knowledge at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Sir Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood, wrote of the Eleventh Edition:
“One leaps from one subject to another, fascinated as much by the play of mind and idiosyncrasies of their authors as by the facts and dates. It must be the last encyclopedia in the tradition of Diderot which assumes that information can be made memorable only when it is slightly colored by prejudice. When T.S. Eliot wrote ‘Soul curled up on the window seat reading the Encyclopedia’ he was certainly thinking of the eleventh edition.”
Their web site is:
Granted, what I have with the Robinson Curriculum CD-ROMs are scanned pages from that encyclopedia, so they look nicer, there aren’t any (secondary) typos, the footnotes match up, the foreign language characters are printed exactly as they appear (not an approximation) and it is printable in any size I want, but the online effort of LoveToKnow to bring this edition to the masses is encouraging. Now that I know it exists, if I ever want to point anyone to more in-depth information about any particular subject, I’ll be hyperlinking to that web site.