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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

The Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) represents in many ways the sum of knowledge at the beginning of the 20th century. The edition is still often regarded as the greatest edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Some articles were written by the best-known scholars of the age, such as Edmund Gosse, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Muir, Prince Peter Kropotkin, T.H. Huxley, and William Michael Rossetti, as well as many other names now less known. Many of these articles are still of value and interest to modern readers and scholars. The best known authors generally contributed only a single article or part of an article, however. The majority of the work was done by a mix of journalists, British Museum staff, and academics. Among these lesser known contributors some who would later achieve greatness such as Ernest Rutherford and Bertrand Russell contributed articles.

The Eleventh Edition was a notable reorganization and rewriting of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which was first published in three volumes in 1768. The Eleventh Edition formed the basis for every edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica up until 1974, when the completely new Fifteenth Edition, based on modern information presentation, was published.

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 the 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 coloured by prejudice. When T.S. Eliot wrote "Soul curled up on the window seat reading the Encyclopædia Britannica" he was certainly thinking of the eleventh edition.

The 1911 edition for the first time saw a number of female contributors. Thirty-four women contributed articles to the edition.

The 1911 edition is no longer restricted by copyright, and it is available in several more modern forms. The Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia volume 1 is actually 1911 EB volume 1, renamed to address Britannica's trademark concerns. However, Project Gutenberg currently only holds an electronic version of Volume 1.

Distributed Proofreaders is currently working on producing a complete electronic edition of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which will be donated to Project Gutenberg when finished.


External links

Versions can be found at:

The publishers of both versions above claim copyright on their versions (although the underlying text is public domain). Project Gutenberg has a pending task of doing a new scan from a printed set of the 1911 Encyclopaedia.

See Wikipedia:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica for information on using the Eleventh Edition as a source for articles for Wikipedia.