Monday, October 29, 2007

The Encyclopædia Britannica is a general English-language encyclopaedia published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., a privately held company in Chicago, Illinois. The articles in the Britannica are aimed at educated adult readers, and written by a staff of 19 full-time editors and over 4,000 expert contributors. It is widely considered to be the most scholarly of encyclopaedias. Despite these criticisms, the Britannica retains its reputation as a reliable research tool.

Ownership of the Britannica has changed many times, with past owners including the Scottish publisher A & C Black, Horace Everett Hooper, Sears Roebuck and William Benton. The present owner of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. is Jacqui Safra, Swiss billionaire and actor. Recent advances in information technology and the rise of electronic encyclopedias such as Encarta and Wikipedia have reduced the demand for print encyclopedias.

The Britannica has been issued in 15 official editions, with multi-volume supplements to the 3rd and 5th editions (see the Table below). Strictly speaking, the 10th edition was only a supplement to the 9th edition, just as the 12th and 13th editions were supplements to the 11th edition. The 15th edition underwent a massive re-organisation in 1985, but the updated, current version is still known as the 15th edition.
Throughout its history, the Britannica has been devoted to two aims: to be an excellent reference book and to provide educational material for those who wish to study.
In the fifth era (1994–present), digital versions of the Britannica have been developed and released on optical media and online. In 1996, the Britannica was bought from the Benton Foundation by Jacqui Safra at well below its estimated value, owing to the company's financial difficulties. The Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. company split in 1999. One part retained the company name and developed the print version, and the other part, Inc., developed the digital versions. Since 2001, these two companies share a single CEO, Ilan Yeshua, who has continued Powell's strategy of growing Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. by introducing new products branded with the Britannica name.

The Britannica was dedicated to the reigning British monarch from 1788 to 1901 and then, upon its sale to an American partnership, to both the British monarch and the President of the United States.


Critical and popular assessments
Since the 3rd edition, the Britannica has enjoyed a popular and critical reputation for general excellence. Several editors-in-chief of the Britannica are likely to have read their editions completely, such as William Smellie (1st edition), William Robertson Smith (9th edition), and Walter Yust (14th edition).

The Britannica continues to win awards. The online Britannica won the 2005 Codie award for "Best Online Consumer Information Service";

As a general encyclopaedia, the Britannica seeks to describe as wide a range of topics as possible. The topics are chosen in part by reference to the Propædia "Outline of Knowledge".

Coverage of topics
The Britannica has also received strong criticism, especially as its editions become outdated. It is expensive to produce a completely new edition of the Britannica,

Various authorities ranging from Virginia Woolf to academic professors have criticised the Britannica for having bourgeois and old-fashioned opinions on art, literature and social sciences.

The Britannica is occasionally criticised for its editorial choices. Given its roughly constant size, the encyclopaedia has needed to reduce or eliminate some topics to accommodate others, resulting in some controversial decisions. The initial 15th edition (1974–1985) was faulted for having drastically reduced or eliminated its coverage of children's literature, military decorations, and the French poet Joachim du Bellay; editorial mistakes were also alleged, such as an inconsistent sorting of Japanese biographies.

Editorial choices
By modern standards, past editions of the Britannica have been marred by racism and sexism.

Racism and sexism in prior editions
In 1912 mathematician L. C. Karpinski criticised the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition for its many inaccuracies in the articles on the history of mathematics, none of which had been written by specialists in the field. The sentiment is expressed by its original editor, William Smellie.


Present status
Since 1985, the Britannica has had four parts: the Micropædia, the Macropædia, the Propædia, and a two-volume index. The Britannica's articles are found in the Micro- and Macropædia, which encompass 12 and 17 volumes, respectively, each volume having roughly one thousand pages. The 2007 Macropædia has 699 in-depth articles, ranging in length from 2 to 310 pages and having references and named contributors. In contrast, the 2007 Micropædia has roughly 65,000 articles, the vast majority (about 97%) of which contain fewer than 750 words, no references, and no named contributors. Diacritical marks and non-English letters are ignored, while numerical entries such as "1812, War of" are alphabetised as if the number had been written out ("Eighteen-twelve, War of"). Articles with identical names are ordered first by persons, then by places, then by things. Rulers with identical names are organised first alphabetically by country and then by chronology; thus, Charles III of France precedes Charles I of England, listed in Britannica as the ruler of Great Britain and Ireland. Similarly, places that share names are organised alphabetically by country, then by ever-smaller political divisions.

2007 print version
There are several abbreviated Britannica encyclopedias. The single-volume Britannica Concise Encyclopædia has 28,000 short articles condensing the larger 32-volume Britannica. Since 1938, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. has published annually a Book of the Year covering the past year's events, which is available online back to the 1994 edition (covering the events of 1993). The company also publishes several specialized reference works, such as Shakespeare: The Essential Guide to the Life and Works of the Bard (Wiley, 2006).

Related printed material
The Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 DVD contains over 55 million words and just over 100,000 articles. Users will be able to send a question via text message, and AskMeNow will search Britannica's 28,000-article concise encyclopedia to return an answer to the query. Daily topical features sent directly to users' mobile phones are also planned.

Optical disc and online and mobile versions

Encyclopedia Britannica Personnel and management
The 2007 print version of the Britannica boasts 4,411 contributors, many of whom are eminent in their fields, such as Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman, astronomer Carl Sagan, and surgeon Michael DeBakey. Roughly a quarter of the contributors are deceased, some as long ago as 1947 (Alfred North Whitehead), while another quarter are retired or emeritus. Most (approximately 98%) contribute to only a single article; however, 64 contributed to three articles, 23 contributed to four articles, 10 contributed to five articles, and 8 contributed to more than five articles. An exceptionally prolific contributor is Dr. Christine Sutton of the University of Oxford, who contributed 24 articles on particle physics.


For more details on this topic, see Staff of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Staff
The Britannica has an Editorial Board of Advisors, which currently includes 14 distinguished scholars:

former Ecuadorian president Rosalía Arteaga,
Physiology/Medicine Nobel laureate David Baltimore,
religion scholar Wendy Doniger,
political economist Benjamin M. Friedman,
Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb,
Physics Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann,
Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian,
Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Zaha Hadid,
American Civil War historian James M. McPherson,
philosopher Thomas Nagel,
cognitive scientist Donald Norman,
musicologist Don Michael Randel,
economist Amartya Sen, and
Stewart Sutherland, Baron Sutherland of Houndwood and a Knight of the Thistle. Editorial advisors
In January 1996, the Britannica was purchased from the Benton Foundation by billionaire Swiss financier and actor Jacqui Safra,

Corporate structure
As the Britannica is a general encyclopaedia, it does not seek to compete with specialised encyclopaedias such as the Encyclopaedia of Mathematics or the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, which can devote much more space to their chosen topics. In its first years, the Britannica's main competitor was the general encyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers and, soon thereafter, Rees's Cyclopaedia and Coleridge's Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. In the 20th century, successful competitors included Collier's Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia Americana, and the World Book Encyclopedia. Each of these encyclopaedias has qualities that make it outstanding, such as exceptionally clear writing or superb illustrations. Nevertheless, from the 9th edition onwards, the Britannica was widely considered to have the greatest authority of any general English language encyclopaedia, Although the Britannica is now available both in multimedia form and over the Internet, its preeminence is being challenged by other online encyclopaedias, such as Encarta and Wikipedia.

Print encyclopedias
The most notable competitor of the Britannica among CD/DVD-ROM digital encyclopedias is Encarta,

Digital encyclopedias on optical media
Online alternatives to the Britannica include Wikipedia, a freely available Web-based free-content encyclopaedia. Wikipedia receives roughly 450 times more traffic than the online version of the Britannica, based on independent page-view statistics gathered by Alexa in the first three months of 2007.

Edition summary

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