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Wikipedia:Today's featured article/August 8, 2007

Title page of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica

The Encyclopædia Britannica is a general encyclopaedia published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., a privately held company. 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. The Britannica, widely considered to be the most scholarly of encyclopaedias, is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh and quickly grew in popularity and size, with its third edition in 1801 reaching 20 volumes. Its rising stature helped in recruiting eminent contributors, and the 9th and 11th editions are regarded as landmark encyclopaedias for scholarship and literary style. Beginning with the 11th edition, the Britannica gradually shortened and simplified its articles. In 1933, the Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to adopt a "continuous revision" policy, in which the encyclopaedia is continually reprinted and every article is updated on a regular schedule. The current edition (the 15th) has a unique three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles, a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles and a hierarchical outline of all human knowledge in a single Propædia volume. The size of the Britannica has remained roughly constant over the past 70 years, with about 40 million words on half a million topics. Certain earlier editions of the Britannica have been criticised for inaccuracy, bias and unauthoritative contributors; the accuracy of the present edition has likewise been questioned, although such criticisms have been challenged by the Britannica's management. (more...)

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