An online copy of the first edition of 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' is published today (10 December) by the National Library of Scotland.
It was exactly 250 years ago that the first pages of 'Britannica' were published in Edinburgh.
With a distinctly Scottish viewpoint, the first edition emphasised two themes — modern science and Scottish identity.
Explicit engravings relating to midwifery scandalised subscribers, and were torn out of every copy on the orders of the Crown. Fortunately the Library has a complete copy in its collections, which is available free to view online thanks to a fundraising campaign for its digitisation.
'Britannica' was conceived by printer Colin Macfarquhar, engraver Andrew Bell, and William Smellie, who edited the first edition. Originally issued in 100 weekly parts, it took three years to produce and consisted of three volumes when it was completed in 1771.
Subsequent editions expanded during the 19th century, often featuring content written by experts in their field. By the 20th century 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' was a household name throughout the English-speaking world.
The Library's 'Britannica' appeal aims to fund the digitisation and publication of more editions.
10 December 2018