Encyclopedia Britannica History Of Editions

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This article is more than 10 years old. The 244-year-old publisher is inundated with orders for the final edition of its 32-volume set, with only 800 copies remaining.
Thu 5 Apr 2012 12.42 BST.

The final edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has almost sold out after nostalgic readers rushed to acquire their own copies of the 32-volume set, which will be the last ever printed.

Sales staff at the 244-year-old publisher have been inundated with orders for the £1,195 edition with almost 175 copies selling a day since it was announced last month that print editions of the Encyclopedia would be discontinued.

The books have been the oldest continuously published reference source in the English language, and stockpiled copies of the final edition are already selling on Amazon for up to £2,500. "Particularly the week after the announcement, our sales staff were run off their feet," said spokesman Eoghan Hughes. There were 12,000 copies printed of the 32-volume 2010 edition, which fills almost a metre and a half on book shelves and weighs 62 kilogrammes.

When the announcement was made on 13 March that it would be the final set, there were 4,000 copies remaining, and that figure has now dropped to just 800, with expectations high of an imminent sell-out.

"It's sold much quicker than normal – we haven't seen sales like this for a long time," said Hughes. "But people have grown up with it – in the early days it was the mark of an educated household – and they wanted to get their hands on a piece of history, we think. It's looking like we will sell out – I imagine the remaining 800 will go very quickly."

Future editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica will be available only online, despite the popularity of the final set. "I don't think we would go back to print on it, although we haven't suspended print entirely – just the 32-volume set," said Hughes (the publisher's print editions of reference books for students and young children continue).

"In the distant future we might do a limited edition once a decade, but there are no plans for that at the moment," added Hughes. The Encyclopedia Britannica has its roots in 18th-century Edinburgh, where printer Colin Macfarquhar,engraver Andrew Bell and scholar William Smellie decided to create an encyclopaedia which would be arranged alphabetically, "compiled upon a new plan in which the different Sciences and Arts are digested into distinct Treatises or Systems", with its chief purpose being "utility".

Starting out as a three-volume first edition first published in 1768 and completed in 1771, the Encyclopedia Britannica began to include contributions from the likes of Walter Scott, AC Swinburne, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Leon Trotsky and Harry Houdini. The current edition features 65,000 articles written by 4,000 contributors, including Ian Rankin, Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton.

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It was the most valuable contract in U.S. Japanese tennis sensation Naomi Osaka was named Female Athlete of the Year in 2020 by the Associated Press. In addition to her successes on the court, she also championed social justice and mental health awareness. Know Better with Britannica Premium. Step back from the day-to-day and get a global perspective with the annual Britannica Premium Membership. News in context, brain teasers and quizzes, plus editor’s roundups on trending topics. dramatic literature. political system. Advertisement for Encyclopædia Britannica, 1913. The Encyclopædia Britannica has been published continuously since 1768, appearing in fifteen official editions.

Several editions have been amended with multi-volume "supplements" (3rd, 5th/6th), consisted of previous editions with added supplements (10th, and 12th/13th) or gone drastic re-organizations (15th). In recent years, digital versions of the Britannica have been developed, both online and on optical media.

Since the early 1930s, the Britannica has developed several "spin-off" products to leverage its reputation as a reliable reference work and educational tool. The Encyclopedia as known up to 2012 was incurring unsustainable losses and the print editions were ended, but it continues on the Internet.[1][2].

Encyclopedias of various types had been published since antiquity, beginning with the collected works of Aristotle and the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, the latter having 2493 articles in 37 books.