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Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences

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Cyclopaedia; or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, containing an Explication of the Terms and an Account of the Things Signified thereby in the several Arts, both Liberal and Mechanical, and the several Sciences, Human and Divine (fol. 2 vols.) was an encyclopedia published by Ephraim Chambers in London in 1728.

Chambers endeavoured to connect the scattered articles relating to each subject by a system of references. In his preface he gives an analysis of the divisions of knowledge, 47 in number, with classed lists of the articles belonging to each, intended to serve as table of contents and also as a directory indicating the order in which the articles should be read.

A second edition appeared in 1738, fol. 2 vols., 2,466 pages, retouched and amended in a thousand places. A few articles are added and some others enlarged, but he was prevented from doing more because the booksellers were alarmed with a bill in parliament containing a clause to oblige the publishers of all improved editions of books to print their improvements separately. The bill after passing the Commons was unexpectedly thrown out by the Lords; but fearing that it might be revived, the booksellers thought it best to retreat though more than twenty sheets had been printed.

Five other editions were published in London, 1739 to 1751-1752, besides one in Dublin, 1742, all in 2 vols. fol. An Italian translation, Venice, 1748-1749, 4to, 9 vols., was the first complete Italian encyclopaedia. When Chambers was in France in 1739 he rejected very favorable proposals to publish an edition there dedicated to Louis XV. His work was judiciously, honestly and carefully done, and long maintained its popularity. But it had many defects and omissions, as he was well aware; and at his death, on the 15th of May 1740, he had collected and arranged materials for seven new volumes.

Chambers's Cyclopaedia was the inspiration for Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie.

John Lewis Scott was employed by the booksellers to select such articles as were fit for the press and to supply others, but he left before the job with finished. The job was given to Dr (afterwards called Sir John) Hill. The Supplement was published in London, 1753, fol. 2 vols., 3307 pages and 12 plates. As Hill was a botanist, the botanical part, which had been very defective in the Cyclopaedia, was the best.

Abraham Rees (1743-1825), a famous Nonconformist minister, published a revised and enlarged edition, with the supplement and modern improvements incorporated in one alphabet, London, 1778-1788, fol. 2 vols., 5010 pages (but not paginated), 159 plates. It was published in 418 numbers at 6d. each. Rees says that he has added more than 4400 new articles. At the end he gives an index of articles, classed under 100 heads, numbering about 57,000 and filling 80 pages. The heads, with 39 cross references, are arranged alphabetically.

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