Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition

Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition

The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–11) is a 29-volume reference work, an edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. It was developed during the encyclopaedia's transition from a British to an American publication. Some of its articles were written by the best-known scholars of the time. This edition of the encyclopedia is now in the public domain, but the outdated nature of some of its content makes its use as a source for modern scholarship problematic. Some articles have special value and interest to modern scholars as cultural artifacts of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Tens of thousands of its articles were copied directly into Wikipedia, where they still can be found.[1]


Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition

The 1911 eleventh edition was assembled with the management of American publisher Horace Everett Hooper. Hugh Chisholm, who had edited the previous edition, was appointed editor in chief, with Walter Alison Phillips as his principal assistant editor.[2]

Originally, Hooper bought the rights to the 25-volume 9th edition and persuaded the British newspaper The Times to issue its reprint, with eleven additional volumes (35 volumes total) as the tenth edition, which was published in 1902. Hooper's association with The Times ceased in 1909, and he negotiated with the Cambridge University Press to publish the 29-volume eleventh edition. Though it is generally perceived as a quintessentially British work, the eleventh edition had substantial American influences, not only in the increased amount of American and Canadian content, but also in the efforts made to make it more popular. American marketing methods also assisted sales. Some 11% of the contributors were American, and a New York office was established to manage that part of the enterprise.

The initials of the encyclopedia's contributors appear at the end of selected articles or at the end of a section in the case of longer articles, such as that on China, and a key is given in each volume to these initials. Some articles were written by the best-known scholars of the time, such as Edmund Gosse, J. B. Bury, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Muir, Peter Kropotkin, T. H. Huxley, James Hopwood Jeans and William Michael Rossetti. Among the then lesser-known contributors were some who would later become distinguished, such as Ernest Rutherford and Bertrand Russell. Many articles were carried over from the 9th edition, some with minimal updating. Some of the book-length articles were divided into smaller parts for easier reference, yet others much abridged. The best-known authors generally contributed only a single article or part of an article. Most of the work was done by journalists, British Museum scholars and other scholars. The 1911 edition was the first edition of the Encyclopædia to include more than just a handful of female contributors, with 34 women contributing articles to the edition.[3]

The eleventh edition introduced a number of changes of the format of the Britannica. It was the first to be published complete, instead of the previous method of volumes being released as they were ready. The print type was kept in galley proofs and subject to continual updating until publication. It was the first edition of Britannica to be issued with a comprehensive index volume in which was added a categorical index, where like topics were listed. It was the first not to include long treatise-length articles. Even though the overall length of the work was about the same as that of its predecessor, the number of articles had increased from 17,000 to 40,000. It was also the first edition of Britannica to include biographies of living people. Sixteen maps of the famous 9th edition of Stielers Handatlas were exclusively translated to English, converted to Imperial units, printed in Gotha, Germany by Justus Perthes and became part this edition. Later editions only included Perthes' great maps as low quality reproductions.[4]

According to Coleman and Simmons,[5] the content of the encyclopedia was distributed as follows:

Subject Content
Geography 29%
Pure and applied science 17%
History 17%
Literature 11%
Fine art 9%
Social science 7%
Psychology 1.7%
Philosophy 0.8%

Hooper sold the rights to Sears Roebuck of Chicago in 1920, completing the Britannica's transition to becoming a substantially American publication.[6] In 1922, an additional three volumes (also edited by Hugh Chisholm), were published, covering the events of the intervening years, including World War I. These, together with a reprint of the eleventh edition, formed the twelfth edition of the work. A similar thirteenth edition, consisting of three volumes plus a reprint of the twelfth edition, was published in 1926, so the twelfth and thirteenth editions were of course closely related to the eleventh edition and shared much of the same content. However, it became increasingly apparent that a more thorough update of the work was required.

The fourteenth edition, published in 1929, was considerably revised, with much text eliminated or abridged to make room for new topics. Nevertheless, the eleventh edition was the basis of every later version of the Encyclopædia Britannica until the completely new fifteenth edition was published in 1974, using modern information presentation.

The eleventh edition's articles are still of value and interest to modern readers and scholars, especially as a cultural artifact: the British Empire was at its maximum, imperialism was largely unchallenged, much of the world was still ruled by monarchs, and the tragedy of the modern world wars was still in the future. They are an invaluable resource for topics omitted from modern encyclopedias, particularly for biography and the history of science and technology. As a literary text, the encyclopedia has value as an example of early 20th-century prose. For example, it employs literary devices, such as pathetic fallacy (attribution of human-like traits to impersonal forces or inanimate objects), which are not as common in modern reference texts.[5]

Notable commentary on the Eleventh Edition

1913 advertisement for the eleventh edition
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In 1917, using the pseudonym of S. S. Van Dine, the US art critic and author Willard Huntington Wright published Misinforming a Nation, a 200+ page criticism of inaccuracies and biases of the Encyclopædia Britannica eleventh edition. Wright claimed that Britannica was "characterized by misstatement, inexcusable omissions, rabid and patriotic prejudices, personal animosities, blatant errors of fact, scholastic ignorance, gross neglect of non-British culture, an astounding egotism, and an undisguised contempt for American progress."[7]

Amos Urban Shirk, known for having read the eleventh and fourteenth editions in their entirety, said he found the fourteenth edition to be a "big improvement" over the eleventh, stating that "most of the material had been completely rewritten".

Robert Collison, in Encyclopaedias: Their History Throughout The Ages (1966), wrote of the eleventh edition that it "was probably the finest edition of the Britannica ever issued, and it ranks with the Enciclopedia Italiana and the Espasa as one of the three greatest encyclopaedias. It was the last edition to be produced almost in its entirety in Britain, and its position in time as a summary of the world's knowledge just before the outbreak of World War I is particularly valuable."

Sir Kenneth Clark, in Another Part of the Wood (1974), 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 encyclopaedia 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." (Clark refers to Eliot's 1929 poem "Animula".) It was one of Jorge Luis Borges's favorite works, and was a source of information and enjoyment for his entire working life.[8]

In 1912, mathematician L. C. Karpinski criticised the eleventh edition for inaccuracies in articles on the history of mathematics, none of which had been written by specialists.[9]

English writer and former priest Joseph McCabe claimed in Lies and Fallacies of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1947) that Britannica was censored under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church after the 11th edition.[10]

Authorities ranging from Virginia Woolf to professors criticised the 11th edition for having bourgeois and old-fashioned opinions on art, literature, and social sciences.[3] A contemporary Cornell professor, Edward B. Titchener, wrote in 1912, "the new Britannica does not reproduce the psychological atmosphere of its day and generation... Despite the halo of authority, and despite the scrutiny of the staff, the great bulk of the secondary articles in general psychology ... are not adapted to the requirements of the intelligent reader."[11]

Critics have charged several editions with racism and sexism.[3][12] The eleventh edition characterises the Ku Klux Klan as protecting the white race and restoring order to the American South after the American Civil War, citing the need to "control the negro", and "the frequent occurrence of the crime of rape by negro men upon white women".[13] [14] Similarly, the "Civilization" article argues for eugenics, stating that it is irrational to "propagate low orders of intelligence, to feed the ranks of paupers, defectives and criminals ... which to-day constitute so threatening an obstacle to racial progress."[15] The eleventh edition has no biography of Marie Curie, despite her winning of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911, although she is mentioned briefly under the biography of her husband Pierre Curie.[16] The Britannica employed a large female editorial staff that wrote hundreds of articles for which they were not given credit.[3]

1911 Britannica in the 21st century

The 1911 edition is no longer restricted by copyright, and it is therefore available in several more modern forms. While it may once have been a reliable description of the consensus of its time, for many modern readers, the Encyclopedia has several major errors, ethnocentric remarks, and other issues:

The eleventh edition of Encyclopædia Britannica has become a commonly quoted source, both because of the reputation of the Britannica and because it is now in the public domain and has been made available on the Internet. It has been used as a source by many modern projects, including Wikipedia and the Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia.

Gutenberg Encyclopedia

The Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia is the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, renamed to address Britannica's trademark concerns. Project Gutenberg's offerings are summarized below in the External links section and include text and graphics. Distributed Proofreaders are currently working on producing a complete electronic edition of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

See also


  1. Denis Boyles, Everything Explained That Is Explainable: On the Creation of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's Celebrated Eleventh Edition, 1910-1911 (2016) "Prologue."
  2. S. Padraig Walsh, Anglo-American general encyclopedias: a historical bibliography (1968), p. 49
  3. 1 2 3 4 Thomas, Gillian (1992). A Position to Command Respect: Women and the Eleventh Britannica. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-2567-8.
  4. Wolfgang Lierz: Karten aus Stielers Hand-Atlas in der „Encyclopaedia Britannica“. In: Cartographica Helvetica. Heft 29, 2004, ISSN 1015-8480, S. 27–34 online.
  5. 1 2 All There is to Know (1994), edited by Alexander Coleman and Charles Simmons. Subtitled: "Readings from the Illustrious Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica". p. 32. ISBN 0-671-76747-X
  6. "Encyclopaedia Britannica - Eleventh edition and its supplements | English language reference work". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  7. Misinforming a Nation. 1917. Chapter 1.
  8. Woodall, James (1996). Borges: A Life. New York: BasicBooks. p. 76. ISBN 0-465-04361-5.
  9. Karpinski, L. C. (1912). "History of Mathematics in the Recent Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica". Science. 35 (888): 29–31. Bibcode:1912Sci....35...29K. doi:10.1126/science.35.888.29. PMID 17752897.
  10. McCabe, J (1947). Lies and Fallacies of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Haldeman-Julius. ASIN B0007FFJF4. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  11. Titchener, EB (1912). "The Psychology of the new 'Britannica'". American Journal of Psychology. University of Illinois Press. 23 (1): 37–58. doi:10.2307/1413113. JSTOR 1413113.
  12. Chalmers, F. Graeme (1992). "The Origins of Racism in the Public School Art Curriculum". Studies in Art Education. 33 (3): 134–143. doi:10.2307/1320895. JSTOR 1320895.
  13.  Fleming, Walter Lynwood (1911). "Lynch Law". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  14.  Fleming, Walter Lynwood (1911). "Ku Klux Klan". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  15.  Williams, Henry Smith (1911). "Civilization". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  16.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Curie, Pierre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 644.
  17.  Joyce, Thomas Athol (1911). "Negro". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 344.
  18.  Hannay, David (1911). "American War of Independence". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 845.

Further reading

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Internet Archive – Text Archives
Individual Volumes
Volume From To
Volume 1 A Androphagi
Volume 2 Andros, Sir Edmund Austria
Volume 3 Austria, Lower Bisectrix
Volume 4 Bisharin Calgary
Volume 5 Calhoun, John Caldwell Chatelaine
Volume 6 Châtelet Constantine
Volume 7 Constantine Pavlovich Demidov
Volume 8 Demijohn Edward the Black Prince
Volume 9 Edwardes, Sir Herbert Benjamin Evangelical Association
Volume 10 Evangelical Church Conference Francis Joseph I
Volume 11 Franciscans Gibson, William Hamilton
Volume 12 Gichtel, Johann Georg Harmonium
Volume 13 Harmony Hurstmonceaux
Volume 14 Husband Italic
Volume 15 Italy Kyshtym
Volume 16 L Lord Advocate
Volume 17 Lord Chamberlain Mecklenburg
Volume 18 Medal Mumps
Volume 19 Mun, Adrien Albert Marie de Oddfellows, Order of
Volume 20 Ode Payment of members
Volume 21 Payn, James Polka
Volume 22 Poll Reeves, John Sims
Volume 23 Refectory Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin
Volume 24 Sainte-Claire Deville, Étienne Henri Shuttle
Volume 25 Shuválov, Peter Andreivich Subliminal self
Volume 26 Submarine mines Tom-Tom
Volume 27 Tonalite Vesuvius
Volume 28 Vetch Zymotic diseases
Volume 29 Index List of contributors
Volume 1 of 1922 supp Abbe English History
Volume 2 of 1922 supp English Literature Oyama, Iwao
Volume 3 of 1922 supp Pacific Ocean Islands Zuloaga
Reader's Guide – 1913
Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia
As of 16 December 2014
Section From To
Volume 1:   A    Androphagi
Volume 2.1:   Andros, Sir Edmund    Anise
Volume 2.2:   Anjar    Apollo
Volume 2.3:   Apollodorus    Aral
Volume 2.4:   Aram, Eugene    Arcueil
Volume 2.5:   Arculf    Armour, Philip
Volume 2.6:   Armour Plates    Arundel, Earls of
Volume 2.7:   Arundel, Thomas    Athens
Volume 2.8:   Atherstone    Austria
Volume 3.1:   Austria, Lower    Bacon
Volume 3.2:   Baconthorpe    Bankruptcy
Volume 3.3:   Banks    Bassoon
Volume 3.4:   Basso-relievo    Bedfordshire
Volume 3.5:   Bedlam    Benson, George
Volume 3.6:   Bent, James    Bibirine
Volume 3.7:   Bible    Bisectrix
Volume 4.1:   Bisharin    Bohea
Volume 4.2:   Bohemia    Borgia, Francis
Volume 4.3:   Borgia, Lucrezia    Bradford, John
Volume 4.4:   Bradford, William    Brequigny, Louis
Volume 4.5:   Bréquigny    Bulgaria
Volume 4.6:   Bulgaria    Calgary
Volume 5.1:   Calhoun    Camoens
Volume 5.2:   Camorra    Cape Colony
Volume 5.3:   Capefigue    Carneades
Volume 5.4:   Carnegie, Andrew    Casus Belli
Volume 5.5:   Cat    Celt
Volume 5.6:   Celtes, Konrad    Ceramics
Volume 5.7:   Cerargyrite    Charing Cross
Volume 5.8:   Chariot    Chatelaine
Volume 6.1:   Châtelet    Chicago
Volume 6.2:   Chicago, University of    Chiton
Volume 6.3:   Chitral    Cincinnati
Volume 6.4:   Cincinnatus    Cleruchy
Volume 6.5:   Clervaux    Cockade
Volume 6.6:   Cockaigne    Columbus, Christopher
Volume 6.7:   Columbus    Condottiere
Volume 6.8:   Conduction, Electric   
Volume 7.1:   Prependix   
Volume 7.2:   Constantine Pavlovich    Convention
Volume 7.3:   Convention    Copyright
Volume 7.4:   Coquelin    Costume
Volume 7.5:   Cosway    Coucy
Volume 7.6:   Coucy-le-Château    Crocodile
Volume 7.7:   Crocoite    Cuba
Volume 7.8:   Cube    Daguerre, Louis
Volume 7.9:   Dagupan    David
Volume 7.10:   David, St    Demidov
Volume 8.2:   Demijohn    Destructor
Volume 8.3:   Destructors    Diameter
Volume 8.4:   Diameter    Dinarchus
Volume 8.5:   Dinard    Dodsworth
Volume 8.6:   Dodwell    Drama
Volume 8.7:   Drama    Dublin
Volume 8.8:   Dubner    Dyeing
Volume 8.9:   Dyer    Echidna
Volume 8.10:   Echinoderma    Edward
Volume 9.1:   Edwardes    Ehrenbreitstein
Volume 9.2:   Ehud    Electroscope
Volume 9.3:   Electrostatics    Engis
Volume 9.4:   England    English Finance
Volume 9.5:   English History   
Volume 9.6:   English Language    Epsom Salts
Volume 9.7:   Equation    Ethics
Volume 9.8:   Ethiopia    Evangelical Association
Volume 10.1:   Evangelical Church Conference    Fairbairn, Sir William
Volume 10.2:   Fairbanks, Erastus    Fens
Volume 10.3:   Fenton, Edward    Finistère
Volume 10.4:   Finland    Fleury, Andre
Volume 10.5:   Fleury, Claude    Foraker
Volume 10.6:   Foraminifera    Fox, Edward
Volume 10.7:   Fox, George    France[p.775-p.894]
Volume 10.8:   France[p.895-p.929]    Francis Joseph I.
Volume 11.1:   Franciscians    French Language
Volume 11.2:   French Literature    Frost, William
Volume 11.3:   Frost    Fyzabad
Volume 11.4:   G    Gaskell, Elizabeth
Volume 11.5:   Gassendi, Pierre    Geocentric
Volume 11.6:   Geodesy    Geometry
Volume 11.7:   Geoponici    Germany[p.804-p.840]
Volume 11.8:   Germany[p.841-p.901]    Gibson, William
Volume 12.1:   Gichtel, Johann    Glory
Volume 12.2:   Gloss    Gordon, Charles George
Volume 12.3:   Gordon, Lord George    Grasses
Volume 12.4:   Grasshopper    Greek Language
Volume 12.5:   Greek Law    Ground-Squirrel
Volume 12.6:   Groups, Theory of    Gwyniad
Volume 12.7:   Gyantse    Hallel
Volume 12.8:   Haller, Albrecht    Harmonium
Volume 13.1:   Harmony    Heanor
Volume 13.2:   Hearing    Helmond
Volume 13.3:   Helmont, Jean    Hernosand
Volume 13.4:   Hero    Hindu Chronology
Volume 13.5:   Hinduism    Home, Earls of
Volume 13.6:   Home, Daniel    Hortensius, Quintus
Volume 13.7:   Horticulture    Hudson Bay
Volume 13.8:   Hudson River    Hurstmonceaux
Volume 14.1:   Husband    Hydrolysis
Volume 14.2:   Hydromechanics    Ichnography
Volume 14.3:   Ichthyology    Independence
Volume 14.4:   Independence, Declaration of    Indo-European Languages
Volume 14.5:   Indole    Insanity
Volume 14.6:   Inscriptions    Ireland, William Henry
Volume 14.7:   Ireland    Isabey, Jean Baptiste
Volume 14.8:   Isabnormal Lines    Italic
Volume 15.1:   Italy    Jacobite Church
Volume 15.2:   Jacobites    Japan (part)
Volume 15.3:   Japan (part)    Jeveros
Volume 15.4:   Jevons, Stanley    Joint
Volume 15.5:   Joints    Justinian I.
Volume 15.6:   Justinian II.    Kells
Volume 15.7:   Kelly, Edward    Kite
Volume 15.8:   Kite-flying    Kyshtym
Volume 16.1:   L    Lamellibranchia
Volume 16.2:   Lamennais, Robert de    Latini, Brunetto
Volume 16.3:   Latin Language    Lefebvre, Pierre François Joseph
Volume 16.4:   Lefebvre, Tanneguy    Letronne, Jean Antoine
Volume 16.5:   Letter    Lightfoot, John
Volume 16.6:   Lightfoot, Joseph Barber    Liquidation
Volume 16.7:   Liquid Gases    Logar
Volume 16.8:   Logarithm    Lord Advocate
Volume 17.1:   Lord Chamberlain    Luqmān
Volume 17.2:   Luray Cavern    Mackinac Island
Volume 17.3:   McKinley, William    Magnetism, Terrestrial
Volume 17.4:   Magnetite    Malt
Volume 17.5:   Malta    Map, Walter
Volume 17.6:   Map    Mars
Volume 17.7:   Mars    Matteawan
Volume 17.8:   Matter    Mecklenburg

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