Go BackIndex Timeflashes
click on home button to open mainpage



Encyclopedia's have proven to be a very important vehicle to record the common knowledge of the human race. Through the centuries many attemps were made and only a few succeeded.

An early precursor of an encyclopedia was created by Gaius Plinius Secundus (ca. 23-79), the Historia Naturalis was completed around 79. It was a 37 volumes work containing the contemprary sciences; it is the first western attempt to create a systematic encyclopedia.

The Naturalis Historia consists of 37 books with 2,493 chapters:

    • Volume 1: Contents and references
    • Volume 2: Cosmology
    • Volume 3-6: Geography and Ethnology
    • Volume 7: Anthropology
    • Volumes 8-11: Zoology
    • Volumes 12-19: Botanics
    • Volumes 20-32: Medicins from plants and animals
    • Volumes 33-37: Mineralogy and processing of metals and stones, especialy in arts

source: http://www.kefk.net/Wissen/Nachschlagewerke/Enzyklop%C3%A4die/Geschichte/index.asp


May be one of the earliest Asian attempts was the Yongle Dadian.

The Yongle Dadian, also called encyclopedia Maxima, was compiled between A.D. 1403 - 1408 in the Ming Dynasty period (1368-1644), containing 22,877 volumes in 11,095 books. It was 12 times that of the famous encyclopedia compiled by the French author Denis Diderot (1713-1784) in the 18th century.

Much of the Yongle Dadian was destroyed during foreign invasions or internal fights. It is estimated only about 400 books remain in the world, kept in eight countries and regions.

Owing to its large size, the Yongle Dadian was never printed, though 2 other copies were made, and only manuscripts remained. All other was destroyed by fire during uprisings and wars.

"It is the first time in the world to have photocopies of the encyclopedia in its original size, color and style," Guo Youling, director with Beijing Library Press, which is responsible for the photocopying. "We are making every effort to make it resemble the originals so as to give readers an idea of the Yongle Dadian."

source: http://english.people.com.cn/200204/18/eng20020418_94279.shtml

The parent of our modern encyclopedias was Chambers' Cyclopedia, England 1728. Chambers introduced the system of cross-referencing; And he developed the idea that encyclopedias should go beyond conventional learning. Chambers also introduced (current 18th century) technology to become part of an encyclopedia as well.

The other offspring was the Encyclopedia Britannica: a Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences. It's first issue was a three-volume set in 1768 by three Scotsmen, Andrew Bell, Colin McFarguhar, and William Smellie. Their "Arts and Sciences" subtitle, by the way, was the same one Chambers had used.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s first electronic version was published in 1993.

source: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi203.htm

One of the first full blown electronic encyclopedia's is Microsoft's Encarta released in 1993 on CD-ROM without an accompanying multi volume book set. In 1995 Encarta published the first hybrid online-CD-ROM encyclopedia

In the early 21st century a new type of online encyclopedia, known as Wikipedia, enabled readers to create and edit encyclopedia articles. A wiki is a type of server software that enables users to create or alter content on a Web page. Wikipedia was closely associated with the open source software movement and rapidly expanded to include hundreds of thousands of articles, many on popular culture topics, in a number of languages. The philosophy behind Wikipedia was that a community of volunteers could pool their knowledge and crosscheck their work to create a free encyclopedia.

source: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761551647_3/Encyclopedia.html#p43



More Timeflashes Index Timeflashes

Go BackIndex Timeflashes Last Updated on June 10, 2005 For suggestions  please mail the editors