Encyclopædia Britannica

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The Encyclopædia Britannica (Latin for "British Encyclopaedia") is a general English-language encyclopaedia published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., a privately held company. Articles are aimed at educated adults, and written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert contributors. It is regarded as the most scholarly of encyclopaedias.[1][2]

The Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print.[3] It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and grew in popularity and size, its third edition (1797) and supplement (1801) reaching 20 volumes together.[4][5][6] Its rising stature helped recruit eminent contributors, and the 9th edition (1875–1889) and the 11th edition (1911) are landmark encyclopaedias for scholarship and literary style.[5] Beginning with the 11th edition, the Britannica shortened and simplified articles to broaden its North American market.[5] In 1933, the Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to adopt "continuous revision", in which the encyclopaedia is continually reprinted and every article updated on a schedule.[6]

The current 15th edition has a unique three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles (generally fewer than 750 words), a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles (two to 310 pages) and a single Propædia volume to give a hierarchical outline of knowledge. The Micropædia is meant for quick fact-checking and as a guide to the Macropædia; readers are advised to study the Propædia outline to understand a subject's context and to find more detailed articles.[7] The size of the Britannica has remained roughly constant over 70 years, with about 40 million words on half a million topics.[8] Although publication has been based in the United States since 1901, the Britannica has maintained British spelling.[1]

The Britannica has had difficulty remaining profitable.[3] Some articles in earlier editions have been criticised for inaccuracy, bias, or unqualified contributors.[5][9] The accuracy in parts of the present edition has likewise been questioned,[1][10] although criticisms have been challenged by Britannica's management.[11]

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