François Rabelais used the term in French “encyclopaedia”, also spelled “encyclopedia,” for the first time, in Pantagruel (chapter 20), talking of education, the word encyclopaedia coming from the Greek enkyklios paideia, “general education,” at first meaning a circle or a complete system of learning — that is, an all-around education.
The German writer and compiler Paul Scalich was the first to use the word to describe a book in the title of his Encyclopaedia; seu, Orbis disciplinarum, tam sacrarum quam prophanum epistemon… (“Encyclopaedia; or, Knowledge of the World of Disciplines, Not Only Sacred but Profane…”), issued at Basel in 1559.
The first part of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the oldest continuously published and revised work in the English language, was published and advertised for sale in Edinburgh on this day in 1768.
My first facsimile copy of an encyclopaedia was the first most important work of Denis Diderot, who made the term encyclopaedia fashionable with his historic French encyclopaedia, the Encyclopédie, although cyclopaedia was then becoming fairly popular as an alternative term.
His Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers [English: Encyclopedia, or a Systematic (Classified) Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts], edited by him and, until 1759, co-edited by Jean le Rond d’Alembert, inspired by the success of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, was brining together writings from different philosophes, men dedicated to the advancement of science and secular thought and the new tolerance and open-mindedness of the Enlightenment.
In the leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1768th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD), the year the government of Poland signed a treaty virtually turning the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into a protectorate of the Russian Empire, the work had started to bring the first full edition three years later. In 1771 the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, could be proud to present the great encyclopaedia in three volumes.
It took 61 years before the first American encyclopaedia saw the light. This first major multivolume encyclopaedia was published in the United States from 1829 to 1833, compiled and edited by Francis Lieber.
It was only in 1859 until 1868 that the Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, based on a translation of the 10th edition of the German Konversations-Lexikon (now Brockhaus Enzyklopädie) was published. This Chambers’s Encyclopaedia is not to be confused with the Cyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers. The modern Chambers’s appeared as a 15-volume set in 1950.
In 1968 I was pleased to find the Encyclopædia Britannica bicentenary period edition on my bookshelf and in 1974 I was overpowered by what I thought was a wonderful system, my new set consisting of 28 volumes in three parts serving different functions: the Micropædia: Ready Reference and Index, Macropædia: Knowledge in Depth, and Propædia: Outline of Knowledge.
It was and still is very practical to just find the concentrated short explanations, with further index references to related content elsewhere in the set. The 15th edition was given a global perspective by more than 4,000 contributing authors from more than 100 countries.
Because the times changing quickly and so much new information needed, I bought my next Encyclopaedia in 1980, with a subscription of the yearly additional up-to datebooks (Book of the year).
Up to today, I am convinced that it is important that the world can find more information about subjects and that writers in their articles link to places where such more in-depth information can be found.
I also believe in free speech and the importance of having multiple opinions being presented at a certain place. Therefore, I also, in my articles, do not mind placing links to articles of other people, even when they may not be in line with my thinking, but offering some additional interesting thought.
I am convinced that everyone should make up their own minds, but they should be able to gain sufficient insight through articles and correct and complete newsgathering. As such on all of my websites, I sincerely hope to offer an unbiased view, with articles that may shed some light from my point of view, but also from others their view.