Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Encyclopedic dictionary

Encyclopedic dictionary

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Encyclopedic dictionary'
Start a new discussion about 'Encyclopedic dictionary'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

An encyclopedic dictionary typically includes a large number of short listings, arranged alphabetically, and discussing a wide range of topics. Encyclopedic dictionaries can be general, containing articles on topics in many different fields; or they can specialize in a particular field (such as art, biography
Biographical dictionary
Biographical dictionaries – a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information – have been written in many languages. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country...

, law, medicine, or philosophy). They may also be organized around a particular academic, cultural, ethnic, or national perspective.

Historically, the term has been used to refer to any encyclopedic reference
Reference
Reference is derived from Middle English referren, from Middle French rèférer, from Latin referre, "to carry back", formed from the prefix re- and ferre, "to bear"...

 book (that is, one comprehensive in scope), which was organized alphabetically, as with the familiar dictionary
Dictionary
A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

. (The term dictionary preceded encyclopedia in common usage by about two centuries.) To convey their alphabetic method of organization and to contrast that method with other systems for classifying knowledge, many early encyclopedias were titled or sub-titled "a dictionary of arts and sciences" or something similar.

However, it later developed into a somewhat distinct class of reference
Reference
Reference is derived from Middle English referren, from Middle French rèférer, from Latin referre, "to carry back", formed from the prefix re- and ferre, "to bear"...

 books, and if we were creating the phrase today we might use something like a dictionaric encyclopedia, as it is sometimes more the latter than the former. While there are similarities, of course, to both dictionaries
Dictionary
A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

 and encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

s, there are important distinctions as well:
  • A dictionary
    Dictionary
    A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

     is primarily focused on words and their definition, and typically provides limited information, analysis or background for the word defined. Hence, while it may offer a definition, it may leave the reader still lacking in understanding the meaning or import of a term, and how the term relates to a broader field of knowledge.
  • An encyclopedia
    Encyclopedia
    An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

    , on the other hand, seeks to discuss each subject in more depth and convey the accumulated knowledge on that subject. This characteristic is especially true of those encyclopedias with long monographs on particular subjects, such as the first ten editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

    . While often organized alphabetically, some encyclopedias were not. Usually, more of the discussion may be organized around a field (such as law
    Law
    Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

    ) or a topic (such as the Scottish enlightenment
    Scottish Enlightenment
    The Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy...

    ), and less on the alphabetic terminology related to that discussion. An encyclopedia also often includes many maps and illustrations, as well as bibliography and statistics.


Compared to a dictionary, the encyclopedic dictionary offers a more complete description and a choice of entries selected to convey a range of knowledge. Compared to an encyclopedia, the encyclopedic dictionary offers ease of use, through summarized entries and in some cases more entries of separate terms; and often reduced size, and the reduced publishing and purchase cost that implies.

Of course, the question of how to structure the entries, and how much information to include, are among the core issues in organizing reference books. As different approaches are better suited to different uses or users, all three approaches have been in wide use since the end of the 18th century.

The title of the volume may not be a good indication of which type of reference it is, as commercial concerns may have affected the publisher's selection of a title.

History


The encyclopedic dictionary evolved from the dictionary. John Harris
John Harris (writer)
John Harris was an English writer, scientist, and Anglican priest. He is best known as the editor of the Lexicon Technicum: Or, A Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences , the earliest of English encyclopaedias, and as the compiler of the Collection of Voyages and Travels which was...

 subtitled his landmark Lexicon Technicum
Lexicon technicum
Lexicon Technicum: Or, An Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Explaining not only the Terms of Art, but the Arts Themselves was in many respects the first alphabetical encyclopedia written in English...

a "universal English dictionary of Arts and Sciences;" it was the first English-language, alphabetically ordered collection of knowledge.

The 18th-century encyclopedists, in turn, dramatically expanded the depth and, in some cases, substantially revised the organization of the encyclopedic dictionary to create the early major encyclopedias, the French Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert...

and later the British Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

. However, such comprehensive works were costly and difficult to produce, and to keep current; and the detailed entries were not ideal for some reference uses. The first version of the German Conversations-Lexikon (1796-1808) was just 2,762 pages in six volumes, and while that work was later expanded, its format using numerous, less lengthy entries served as the principal model for many 19th-century encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

s and encyclopedic dictionaries.

The principal English-language encyclopaedic dictionary of the nineteenth century was the 7-volume in 14 eponymous work by Robert Hunter (1823-1897), published by Cassell in 1879-88, and reprinted many times up to 1910, including (1895) as the mass-circulation Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Hunter was assisted by Henry Scherren and a small team of domestic assistants at his house in Loughton
Loughton
Loughton is a town and civil parish in the Epping Forest district of Essex. It is located between 11 and 13 miles north east of Charing Cross in London, south of the M25 and west of the M11 motorway and has boundaries with Chingford, Waltham Abbey, Theydon Bois, Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill...

. In the USA, the dictionary was reissued with a variety of titles.

See also

  • Lexicon Technicum
    Lexicon technicum
    Lexicon Technicum: Or, An Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Explaining not only the Terms of Art, but the Arts Themselves was in many respects the first alphabetical encyclopedia written in English...

    by John Harris
    John Harris (writer)
    John Harris was an English writer, scientist, and Anglican priest. He is best known as the editor of the Lexicon Technicum: Or, A Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences , the earliest of English encyclopaedias, and as the compiler of the Collection of Voyages and Travels which was...

     an early encyclopedia
  • Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences
    Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences
    Cyclopaedia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences was an encyclopedia published by Ephraim Chambers in London in 1728, and reprinted in numerous editions in the eighteenth century...

    by Ephraim Chambers
    Ephraim Chambers
    Ephraim Chambers was an English writer and encyclopaedist, who is primarily known for producing the Cyclopaedia, or a Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences.-Early life:...

  • Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle by Pierre Larousse
    Pierre Larousse
    Pierre Athanase Larousse was a French grammarian, lexicographer and encyclopaedist. He published many of the outstanding educational and reference works of 19th-century France, including the 15 volume Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle.-Early life:Pierre Larousse was born in Toucy, where...

  • The Century Dictionary
    Century Dictionary
    The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia was one of the largest encyclopedic dictionaries of the English language. The first edition was published from 1889 to 1891 by The Century Company of New York, in six, eight, or ten volume versions in 7,046 pages with some 10,000 wood-engraved illustrations...

  • Sanas Cormaic
    Sanas Cormaic
    Sanas Cormaic , also known as Cormac's Glossary, is an early Irish glossary containing etymologies and explanations of over 1,400 Irish words, many of which are difficult or outdated. The shortest and earliest version of the work is ascribed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin , king-bishop of Munster...

    , a 9th or 10th century Irish encyclopedic and etymological dictionary
    Etymological dictionary
    An etymological dictionary discusses the etymology of the words listed. Often, large dictionaries, such as the OED and Webster's, will contain some etymological information, without aspiring to focus on etymology....


Further reading

  • Sandro Nielsen: "The Effect of Lexicographical Information Costs on Dictionary Making and Use". In: Lexikos 18/2008, 170-189.