« PreviousContinue »
NEW AMERICAN SUPPLEMENT
TO THE LATEST EDITION OF THE
A STANDARD WORK OF REFERENCE IN
ART, LITERATURE, SCIENCE, HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY
EDITED UNDER THE PERSONAL SUPERVISION OF
DAY OTIS KELLOGG, D.D.
ASSISTED BY A CORPS OF EXPERIENCED WRITERS
ENRICHED BY MANY HUNDRED SPECIAL ARTICLES CONTRIBUTED BY MEN
AND WOMEN OF INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION
Dllustrated with over Fifteen Hundred Portraits and Dlher Engravings
IN FIVE VOLUMES
EVERY encyclopædia has to confront, from the start, questions of plan and arrangement, involving the best method of putting its information before readers so that it shall render them the best service. There are but two expedients that have had any practical consideration; one may be called the library and the other the dictionary plan.
The dictionary plan consists in entering, for convenience in consultation, as many titles of articles as possible, and defining them as sententiously as possible. A book so made is essentially a lexicon, or glossary of terms, and nowadays we have come to have a class of dictionaries which, because of their definition of all sorts of technical, trade and patented terms, are, as they call themselves, encyclopædic. But a true encyclopædia is far more than a word-book. A word-book breaks all arts, sciences, philosophies, mechanisms and history into adjectives and nouns, and defines each separately. The difference is immense. For example, a man who knows all about a ship may be content with dictionary definitions of keels, stems, booms, strakes, etc., but the landsman has no acquaintance with these terms until he can turn to some account of ship-building, where he finds them used in a context that gives them intelligibility. Until he reads in this manner he does not even know the terms he needs to have defined. Now, an encyclopædia deals with events and things, rather than with words, and is therefore at once more elementary, as it is also more exhaustive and complete, than a dictionary. It is to help those who do not know what details or terms to look for. It is to explain processes, sequences, relations; and so the encyclopædia has a function far different from that which a dictionary can take up. The latter helps one to a ready understanding of what he has encountered in the world; the former takes him into new fields, and acquaints him with things he has not met with or anticipated.
Undoubtedly, the earliest design of an encyclopædia was to furnish students with a cheap, compact and universal library. At first, books were so expensive that students were unable to buy the special histories, commentaries and treatises published. The situation was not altered when books became cheaper; for industries and sciences and researches were multiplied and subdivided still faster. The encyclopædia then came, and offered, in a compendious way, the contents of thousands of volumes. It also grew rapidly in bulk, until, finally, the largest referencebook in the history of English literature appears in our thirty-volume edition of the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA. It contains nearly 12,000,000 more words than the most voluminous encyclopædic English dictionary extant, and thus illustrates the impossibility of taking into even an elaborate lexicon the historical, biographical, geographical, and statistical features of an encyclopædia.
THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA was first published in 1771. Its proprietors announced it as on a new plan, the different sciences and arts being “ digested into treatises and systems.” It was a distinct adoption of the library plan, and it has been adhered to in all subsequent editions. The result is, that the edition here announced contains long articles that would make over fifty duodecimo volumes of 600 pages of small-pica print, each devoted to some special branch of art, theology, science, history, etc. The entire compass of this issue of the work would make 140 such volumes.
It is this library system that has constituted the strength and the weakness of the BRITANNICA,- the strength, because it lays under contribution a higher and more critical scholarship; the weakness, because the difficulty of referring to particular details or topics is increased. The testimony to its strength is unimpeachable, for it comprises the verdict of scholars and reading men the world over, indorsing its authority, and commending its skill of presentation and comprehensiveness as unapproached in any other English work of reference. The testimony also further indorses the fact that its pages are the storehouse from which other encyclopædias both replenish their columns and correct their errors. But beyond all this, it is indorsed triumphantly in the fact that more copies of the ninth edition of the BRITANNICA have passed into circulation, by scores of thousands, than of any other reference-book of contemporary sale.
A treatise has a law of art to govern its production; defining and explaining do not result in an art. Thus, were one to visit an inclosure in which were gathered all the material of a classic temple, - the stones and cements, the framing and the girders, the columns, keystones, capitals, molding and chiseled friezes,-it might instruct one to find each detail packed in barrels and cases, duly labeled, and assorted into piles, according to the alphabetical order of their labels. But such