''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, containing 40,000 entries, is now in the public domain, and many of its articles have been used as a basis for articles in Wikipedia.[1] However, the outdated nature of some of its content makes its use as a source for modern scholarship problematic.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.


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 14% of the contributors (214 of 1507) were from North America, and a New York office was established to coordinate their work.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

According to Coleman and Simmons,[6] 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.[7] 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 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.[6]

Notable commentary on the Eleventh Edition

1913 advertisement for the eleventh edition

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".[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Authorities ranging from Virginia Woolf to professors criticised the 11th edition for having bourgeois and old-fashioned opinions on art, literature, and social sciences.[4] 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".[12]

Critics have charged several editions with racism and sexism.[4][13] 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".[14][15] 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".[16] 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.[17] The Britannica employed a large female editorial staff that wrote hundreds of articles for which they were not given credit.[4]

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, many modern readers find fault with the Encyclopedia for several major errors, ethnocentric remarks, and other issues:

  • Contemporary opinions of race and ethnicity are included in the Encyclopedia's articles. For example, the entry for "Negro" states, "Mentally the negro is inferior to the white... the arrest or even deterioration of mental development [after adolescence] is no doubt very largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take the first place in the negro's life and thoughts."[18] The article about the American War of Independence attributes the success of the United States in part to "a population mainly of good English blood and instincts".[19]
  • Many articles are now outdated factually, in particular those concerning science, technology, international and municipal law, and medicine. For example, the article on the vitamin deficiency disease beriberi speculates that it is caused by a fungus, vitamins not having been discovered at the time. Articles about geographic places mention rail connections and ferry stops in towns that no longer employ such transport (though this in itself can be useful for those looking for historical information).
  • Even where the facts might still be accurate, new information, theories and perspectives developed since 1911 have substantially changed the way the same facts might be interpreted. For example, the modern interpretation of the history of the Visigoths is now very different from that of 1911; readers of the eleventh edition who want to know about the social customs and political life of the tribe and its warriors are told to look up the entry for their king, Alaric I.

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.

Project 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. As of 2018, Distributed Proofreaders are working on producing a complete electronic edition of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

See also


  1. Boyles, Denis (2016). Everything Explained That Is Explainable: On the Creation of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's Celebrated Eleventh Edition, 1910-1911. Knopf. pp. xi–x. ISBN 9780307269171.
  2. S. Padraig Walsh, Anglo-American general encyclopedias: a historical bibliography (1968), p. 49
  3. Boyles (2016), p. 242.
  4. 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.
  5. Wolfgang Lierz: Karten aus Stielers Hand-Atlas in der „Encyclopaedia Britannica“. In: Cartographica Helvetica. Heft 29, 2004, ISSN 1015-8480, S. 27–34 online Archived 2016-07-29 at the Wayback Machine..
  6. 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
  7. "Encyclopædia Britannica - Eleventh edition and its supplements | English language reference work". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  8. Misinforming a Nation. 1917. Chapter 1.
  9. Woodall, James (1996). Borges: A Life. New York: BasicBooks. p. 76. ISBN 0-465-04361-5.
  10. 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.
  11. McCabe, J (1947). Lies and Fallacies of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Haldeman-Julius. ASIN B0007FFJF4. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Wikisource Fleming, Walter Lynwood (1911). "Lynch Law". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  15. Wikisource Fleming, Walter Lynwood (1911). "Ku Klux Klan". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  16. Wikisource Williams, Henry Smith (1911). "Civilization". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  17. Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Curie, Pierre". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 644.
  18. Wikisource Joyce, Thomas Athol (1911). "Negro". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 344.
  19. Wikisource Hannay, David (1911). "American War of Independence". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 845.

Further reading

  • Boyles, Denis. Everything Explained That Is Explainable: On the Creation of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's Celebrated Eleventh Edition, 1910-1911 (2016), ISBN 0307269175, online review

Free, public-domain sources for 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica text

Internet Archive – Text Archives
Individual Volumes
Volume 1AAndrophagi
Volume 2Andros, Sir EdmundAustria
Volume 3Austria, LowerBisectrix
Volume 4BisharinCalgary
Volume 5Calhoun, John CaldwellChatelaine
Volume 6ChâteletConstantine
Volume 7Constantine PavlovichDemidov
Volume 8DemijohnEdward the Black Prince
Volume 9Edwardes, Sir Herbert BenjaminEvangelical Association
Volume 10Evangelical Church ConferenceFrancis Joseph I
Volume 11FranciscansGibson, William Hamilton
Volume 12Gichtel, Johann GeorgHarmonium
Volume 13HarmonyHurstmonceaux
Volume 14HusbandItalic
Volume 15ItalyKyshtym
Volume 16LLord Advocate
Volume 17Lord ChamberlainMecklenburg
Volume 18MedalMumps
Volume 19Mun, Adrien Albert Marie deOddfellows, Order of
Volume 20OdePayment of members
Volume 21Payn, JamesPolka
Volume 22PollReeves, John Sims
Volume 23RefectorySainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin
Volume 24Sainte-Claire Deville, Étienne HenriShuttle
Volume 25Shuválov, Peter AndreivichSubliminal self
Volume 26Submarine minesTom-Tom
Volume 27TonaliteVesuvius
Volume 28VetchZymotic diseases
Volume 29IndexList of contributors
Volume 1 of 1922 suppAbbeEnglish History
Volume 2 of 1922 suppEnglish LiteratureOyama, Iwao
Volume 3 of 1922 suppPacific Ocean IslandsZuloaga
Reader's Guide – 1913
Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia
As of 16 December 2014
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, Joseph Henson
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

Other sources for 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica text

  • Online Encyclopedia, Net Industries and its Licensors – includes original and contributed articles; the originals may have been edited and the collection is subject to a claimed copyright.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica 1911, www.theodora.com – unedited, html version, from scan/ocr of the original text, with interactive alphabetical index, and Google translation into Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Hindi, Arabic and Portuguese.
  • 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, StudyLight.org – "Containing 35,820 entries cross-referenced and cross-linked to other resources on StudyLight.org". "Copyright Statement[:] these [EB 1911] files are public domain".
  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information (11th edition) at the Online Books Page of the University of Pennsylvania.

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