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1911 Encyclopędia Britannica

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The Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopędia Britannica (1911) in many ways represents the sum of knowledge at the beginning of the 20th century. The edition is still often regarded as the greatest edition of the Encyclopędia Britannica, with many articles being up to 10 times the length of those in other encyclopędias.

Some articles were written by the best-known scholars of the age, such as Edmund Gosse, J. B. Bury, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Muir, Prince Peter Kropotkin, T.H. Huxley, William Michael Rossetti, Albert Einstein and Henry Ford, as well as many other names now less known. Many others were carried over from the Ninth Edition, some with minimal updating, some of the book-length articles divided into smaller parts for easier reference, yet others heavily abridged. Many 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 were some who would later achieve greatness such as Ernest Rutherford and Bertrand Russell.

1913 advertisement for the 11th edition
1913 advertisement for the 11th edition

The Eleventh Edition was a notable reorganization and rewriting of the Encyclopędia Britannica, which was first published in three volumes in 1768. The Eleventh Edition formed the basis for every edition of the Encyclopędia 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 encyclopędia 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 Encyclopędia 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.

Gutenberg Encyclopedia

The Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia is actually the 1911 EB, renamed to address Britannica's trademark concerns. However, as of October 2004, Project Gutenberg only holds an electronic version of Volume 1. Distributed Proofreaders is currently working on producing a complete electronic edition of the 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica, which will be available from Project Gutenberg when finished. As of October 2004, proofed text of articles in volumes 2 – 5 is accessible via DP's Post Processing page:

Volume 2.2:   ARGENTINA   —   AUSTRIA
Volume 3.1:   AUSTRIA, LOWER   —   BASSOON
Volume 3.2:   BASSOON   —   BISECTRIX
Volume 4.2:   BORDEAUX   —   BRÉQUIGNY
Volume 4.3:   BRÉQUIGNY   —   BULGARIA
Volume 4.4:   BULGARIA   —   CALGARY
Volume 5.2:   CAPE COLONY   —   CAT
Volume 5.3:   CAT   —   CERAMIC

(Some assembly required!)

As of October 2004, unproofed text of articles in volume 5.4 (CERAMIC — CHATELAINE) is accessible via [1]


  • All There is to Know (1994), edited by Alexander Coleman and Charles Simmons . Subtitled: "Readings from the Illustrious Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopędia Britannica". ISBN 0-671-76747-X
  • Gillian Thomas (1992). A Position to Command Respect: Women and the Eleventh Britannica New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0810825678.

External links

Versions can be found at:

  • LoveToKnow Free Online Encyclopedia World Wide Web edition. This appears to be a raw, unproofread OCR-scanned version, and so contains many errors and no illustrations. This source should not be used for anything more than research; the content is not public domain.
  • 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica first volume.
  • Online Encyclopedia. Contains a searchable, raw OCR-scanned version of the encyclopedia.
  • for a CD-ROM version. This edition has all the illustrations, including thousands of steel engravings and line drawings, but is not text-searchable, since it consists of 300dpi images only. These pages also present a great deal of information about the Eleventh and other editions of the Encyclopędia Britannica.
  • 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica plus 250 books, most of K-12 curriculum for home schooling, 120,000 pages, for sale on 22 CD-ROMs. All the image files of books in the product are claimed to be copyrighted, although all but a few of the books are in the public domain. Determining actual copyright status may require legal advice.

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