Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
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Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
|Country of origin||Scotland|
|Headquarters location||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Key people||Jacqui Safra (principal owner)|
|No. of employees||About 400 (300 in Chicago, 100 worldwide)|
The company was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 18th century, in the atmosphere of the Scottish Enlightenment. A printer, Colin Macfarquhar, and an engraver, Andrew Bell, formed a partnership to create a new book that would embody the new spirit of scholarship. William Smellie was engaged to edit the original three-volume work, published one volume at a time beginning in 1768.
The encyclopaedia's reputation grew throughout the publication of its subsequent volumes.
The 11th edition was published in 1910-1911.
The 12th edition was published in 1921-1922, and the 13th edition was published in 1926.
A thoroughly revised 14th edition was published in 1929.
By the mid-1930s, the company headquarters had moved to Chicago, Illinois, United States, and the editorial staff were now no longer disbanded after the completion of a new edition, but kept on as a permanent editorial department, to keep pace with the rapid increase in knowledge at the time.
Starting in 1936, a new printing of the encyclopaedia was published each year, incorporating the latest changes and updates. In 1938, the first edition of the Britannica Book of the Year appeared. This annual supplement is still published today.
William Benton published the Britannica from 1943 until his death in 1973. After the death of his widow Helen Benton in 1974, the Benton Foundation continued to manage the Britannica until it was sold to Jacqui Safra in 1996.
In 1952, Britannica published the landmark set Great Books of the Western World, a 54-volume set of the "great books" of Western culture.
On March 9, 1976 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission entered an opinion and order enjoining Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. from using a) deceptive advertising practices in recruiting sales agents and obtaining sales leads, and b) deceptive sales practices in the door-to-door presentations of its sales agents.
The company was one of the first to offer encyclopaedia content online (in association with LexisNexis in the 1980s), and currently publishes in several mediums, including DVD and through its website.
Under Safra's ownership the company has experienced some financial woes with freelance contributors waiting up to six months for payment and staff going years without pay raises, according to a report in the New York Post. Cost-cutting measures have included mandates to use copyright free photos. Britannica in December 2002 told employees it would raise the contribution paid into their 401(k) accounts, then eliminated them entirely. A company spokesman said: "We've had some cost reductions and belt-tightening but we're not going into details… We're a privately held company."
- Smith, William C. (February 2, 2004). "Venerable tomes go digital". The National Law Journal: P8.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, 1988
- "Topic Merriam-Webster-dictionary on britannica.com"
- "In the Matter of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. et al., pp.421-541" (PDF).
- "Cash-shy Britannica", New York Post, 11 September 2003
- “Encyclopædia Britannica May Refer to ‘For Sale’ to Raise Capital,” Portland Oregonian, April 7, 1995
- Richard A. Melcher, “Dusting Off the Britannica,” Business Week, October 20, 1997
- Robert McHenry, “The Building of Britannica Online”
- Steve Barth, “Britannica on the Virtual Bookshelf,” Knowledge Management Magazine
- Dorothy Auchter, “The Evolution of Encyclopædia Britannica,” Reference Services Review 27, no. 3: 297
- Sydney Morning Herald online