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Lexicon technicum

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Lexicon technicum, or an universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences

The first alphabetical encyclopaedia written in English, it was the work of a London clergyman, John Harris. It was published in London, 1704, fol., 1220 pages, 4 plates, with many diagrams and figures printed in the text.

Like many subsequent English encyclopaedias the pages are not numbered. It professes not merely to explain the terms used in the arts and sciences, but the arts and sciences themselves. The author complains that he found much less help from previous dictionaries than one would suppose. He omits theology, antiquity, biography and poetry; gives only technical history, geography and chronology; and in logic, metaphysics, ethics, grammar and rhetoric, merely explains the terms used. In mathematics and anatomy he professes to be very full, but says that the catalogues and places of the stars are very imperfect, as Flamsteed refused to assist him. In botany he gave from Dr John Ray, ?? Morrison and Joseph Piton de Tournefort "a pretty exact botanick lexicon, which was what we really wanted before", with an account of all the "kinds and subalternate species of plants, and their specific differences" on Rays method. He gave a table of fossils from Dr Woodward, professor of medicine in Gresham College, and took great pains to describe the parts of a ship accurately and particularly, going often on board himself for the purpose. In law he abridged from the best writers what he thought necessary. He meant to have given at the end an alphabet for each art and science, and some more plates of anatomy and ships, but the undertaker could not afford it at the price. A review of his work, extending to the unusual length of four pages, appeared in the Philosophical Transactions, 1704, p. 1699. This volume was reprinted in 1708.

A second volume of 1419 pages and 4 plates appeared in 1710, with a list of about 1300 subscribers. Great part of it consisted of mathematical and astronomical tables, as he intended his work to serve as a small mathematical library. He was allowed by Sir Isaac Newton to print his treatise on acids. He gives a table of logarithms to seven figures of decimals (44 pages), and one of sines, tangents and secants (120 pages), a list of books filling two pages, and an index of the articles in both volumes under 26 heads, filling 50 pages. The longest lists are law (1700 articles), chyrurgery, anatomy, geometry, fortification, botany and music. The mathematical and physical part is considered very able. He often mentions his authorities, and gives lists of books on particular subjects, as botany and chronology. His dictionary was long very popular. The fifth edition was published in 1736, fol. 2 vols.

A supplement, including no new subjects, appeared in 1744, London, fol., 996 pages, 6 plates. It was intended to rival Ephraim Chambers's work, but, being considered a booksellers speculation, was not well received.

Based on the Public Domain 1911 Encyclopaedia

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