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History {{#invoke:main|main}} Encyclopedias have progressed from the beginning of history in written form, through medieval and modern times in print, and most recently, displayed on computer and distributed via computer networks.

Ancient times

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Naturalis Historiæ, 1669 edition, title page

One of the earliest encyclopedic works to have survived to modern times is the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, a Roman statesman living in the 1st century AD. He compiled a work of 37 chapters covering natural history, architecture, medicine, geography, geology, and all aspects of the world around him. He stated in the preface that he had compiled 20,000 facts from 2000 works by over 200 authors, and added many others from his own experience. The work was published around AD 77-79, although he probably never finished proofing the work before his death in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.<ref name=naturalis>Naturalis Historia</ref>

Middle Ages

Isidore of Seville, one of the greatest scholars of the early Middle Ages, is widely recognized for writing the first encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, the Etymologiae (The Etymologies) or Origines (around 630), in which he compiled a sizable portion of the learning available at his time, both ancient and modern. The work has 448 chapters in 20 volumes, and is valuable because of the quotes and fragments of texts by other authors that would have been lost had he not collected them.

The most popular encyclopedia of the Carolingian Age was the De universo or De rerum naturis by Rabanus Maurus, written about 830; it was based on Etymologiae.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

The encyclopedia of Suda, a massive 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia, had 30 000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers. The text was arranged alphabetically with some slight deviations from common vowel order and place in the Greek alphabet.

The early Muslim compilations of knowledge in the Middle Ages included many comprehensive works. Around year 960, the Brethren of Purity of Basra<ref>P.D. Wightman (1953), The Growth of Scientific Ideas</ref> were engaged in their Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity. Notable works include Abu Bakr al-Razi's encyclopedia of science, the Mutazilite Al-Kindi's prolific output of 270 books, and Ibn Sina's medical encyclopedia, which was a standard reference work for centuries. Also notable are works of universal history (or sociology) from Asharites, al-Tabri, al-Masudi, Tabari's History of the Prophets and Kings, Ibn Rustah, al-Athir, and Ibn Khaldun, whose Muqadimmah contains cautions regarding trust in written records that remain wholly applicable today.

The enormous encyclopedic work in China of the Four Great Books of Song, compiled by the 11th century AD during the early Song dynasty (960–1279), was a massive literary undertaking for the time. The last encyclopedia of the four, the Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau, amounted to 9.4 million Chinese characters in 1000 written volumes.

In the late Middle Ages, several authors had the ambition of compiling the sum of human knowledge in a certain field or overall, for example Bartholomew of England, Vincent of Beauvais, Radulfus Ardens, Sydrac, Brunetto Latini, Giovanni da Sangiminiano, Pierre Bersuire. Some were women, like Hildegard of Bingen and Herrad of Landsberg. The most successful of those publications were the Speculum maius (Great Mirror) of Vincent of Beauvais and the De proprietatibus rerum (On the Properties of Things) by Bartholomew of England. The latter was translated (or adapted) into French, Provençal, Italian, English, Flemish, Anglo-Norman, Spanish and German during the Middle Ages. Both were written in the middle of the 13th century. No medieval encyclopedia bore the title Encyclopaedia – they were often called On nature (De natura, De naturis rerum), Mirror (Speculum maius, Speculum universale), Treasure (Trésor).<ref>Monique Paulmier-Foucart, "Medieval Encyclopaedias", in André Vauchez (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, James Clarke & Co, 2002.</ref>

Renaissance

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Anatomy in Margarita Philosophica, 1565

These works were all hand copied and thus rarely available, beyond wealthy patrons or monastic men of learning: they were expensive, and usually written for those extending knowledge rather than those using it.<ref name="dotma">See "Encyclopedia" in Dictionary of the Middle Ages.</ref>

During Renaissance the creation of printing allowed a wider diffusion of encyclopedias and every scholar could have his or her own copy. The De expetendis et fugiendis rebus by Giorgio Valla was posthumously printed in 1501 by Aldo Manuzio in Venice. This work followed the traditional scheme of liberal arts. However, Valla added the translation of ancient Greek works on mathematics (firstly by Archimedes), newly discovered and translated. The Margarita Philosophica by Gregor Reisch, printed in 1503, was a complete encyclopedia explaining the seven liberal arts.

The term encyclopaedia was coined by 16th century humanists who misread copies of their texts of Pliny and Quintilian, and combined the two Greek words "enkyklios paideia" into one word, έγκυκλοπαιδεία.<ref>Ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus project</ref> The phrase enkyklios paideia (ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία) was used by Plutarch and the Latin word Encyclopedia came from him.

The first work titled in this way was the Encyclopedia orbisque doctrinarum, hoc est omnium artium, scientiarum, ipsius philosophiae index ac divisio written by Johannes Aventinus in 1517.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

The English physician and philosopher, Sir Thomas Browne used the word 'encyclopaedia' in 1646 in the preface to the reader to define his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, a major work of the 17th-century scientific revolution. Browne structured his encyclopaedia upon the time-honoured schemata of the Renaissance, the so-called 'scale of creation' which ascends through the mineral, vegetable, animal, human, planetary and cosmological worlds. Pseudodoxia Epidemica was a European best-seller, translated into French, Dutch and German as well as Latin it went through no less than five editions, each revised and augmented, the last edition appearing in 1672.

18th–19th centuries

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The beginnings of the modern idea of the general-purpose, widely distributed printed encyclopedia precede the 18th century encyclopedists. However, Chambers' Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1728), and the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1751 onwards), as well as Encyclopædia Britannica and the Conversations-Lexikon, were the first to realize the form we would recognize today, with a comprehensive scope of topics, discussed in depth and organized in an accessible, systematic method. Chambers, in 1728, followed the earlier lead of John Harris's Lexicon Technicum of 1704 and later editions (see also below); this work was by its title and content "A Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Explaining not only the Terms of Art, but the Arts Themselves".

During the 19th and early 20th century, many smaller or less developed languages{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Which |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[which?] }} saw their first encyclopedias, using French, German, and English role models. While encyclopedias in larger languages, having large markets that could support a large editorial staff, churned out new 20-volume works in a few years and new editions with brief intervals, such publication plans often spanned a decade or more in smaller languages.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

20th century

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1913 advertisement for Encyclopædia Britannica, the oldest and one of the largest contemporary English encyclopedias

Popular and affordable encyclopedias such as Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia and the Children's Encyclopaedia appeared in the early 1920s.

In the United States, the 1950s and 1960s saw the introduction of several large popular encyclopedias, often sold on installment plans. The best known of these were World Book and Funk and Wagnalls.

The second half of the 20th century also saw the proliferation of specialized encyclopedias that compiled topics in specific fields. This trend has continued. Encyclopedias of at least one volume in size now exist for most if not all academic disciplines, including such narrow topics such as bioethics.

By the late 20th century, encyclopedias were being published on CD-ROMs for use with personal computers. Microsoft's Encarta, launched in 1993, was a landmark example as it had no printed equivalent. Articles were supplemented with both video and audio files as well as numerous high-quality images. After sixteen years, Microsoft discontinued the Encarta line of products in 2009.<ref></ref>

21st century

In 2001, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia, a collaboratively edited, multilingual, open-source, free Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. As of 22 January 2022, there are 83 articles in the English Wikipedia. There are 287 different editions of Wikipedia. As of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.<ref name="small screen2">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> Wikipedia has more than 25 million accounts, out of which there were over 118,000 active editors globally, as of August 2015. Wikipedia's accuracy was found by a Nature study to be close to that of Encyclopædia Britannica,<ref name="GilesJ2005Internet">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} Note: The study was cited in several news articles; e.g.:

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|CitationClass=news }}</ref> with Wikipedia being much larger. However, critics argue Wikipedia exhibits systemic bias,<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> and its group dynamics hinder its goals.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Clarify |date=__DATE__ |$B= }} Many academics, historians, teachers, and journalists reject Wikipedia as a reliable source of information, primarily for being a mixture of truths, half truths, and some falsehoods, and that as a resource about many controversial topics, is notoriously subject to manipulation and spin.<ref name="WikiStat2">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

While Wikipedia is by far the largest web-based encyclopedia, it is not the only one in existence. There are several much smaller, usually more specialized, encyclopedias on various themes, sometimes dedicated to a specific geographic region or time period.<ref>Sideris A., "The Encyclopedic Concept in the Web Era", in Ioannides M., Arnold D., Niccolucci F. and K. Mania (eds.), The e-volution of Information Communication Technology in Cultural Heritage. Where Hi-Tech Touches the Past: Risks and Challenges for the 21st Century. VAST 2006, Epoch, Budapest 2006, pp. 192-197. ISBN 963-8046-74-0.</ref>


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