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The idea of an Encyclopaedia (or Encyclopedia in American English) is over 2000 years old, and has gone through numerous transformations and adaptations over the ages.

Also known as a Cyclopedia, Cyclopaedia and Cyclopedien in older times, and at times referred to as a Dictionary as well, the term has all along referred to an attempt to summarise/condence and publishe information on various subjects (or, in some more grandiose incarnations, all knowledge about everything).

As a general definition of the way the term is specifically used in ESAT, it is perhaps fruitful to consider teacher/librarian Ann Sartori's wonderfully succinct introductory outline in the lesson on "Encyclopedia Definition, History & Examples" on the Study.com website (updated on 02/03/2023)[1]:

"Encyclopedias are research tools that collect background information on a variety of topics. In short entries on each topic, the encyclopedia covers enough basic information for the reader to get a sense of the scope and breadth of the topic. The entries in encyclopedias, especially online encyclopedias, often include citations for further research: such as to websites or articles and books on the topic. These can be helpful as a guide for conducting further, more in-depth research."

For more advanced discussions of the encyclopaedia idea, and the concept, nature, forms and versions it, see for example:



H.G. Wells. 1936. "The Idea of a World Encyclopedia." Nature, 138, no. 3500 (28 November 1936): 917-24.[2]

C. Van Doren. 1962. "The Idea of an Encyclopedia". In: American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 6, Issue 1.[3]

Andrew Lih. 2009. The Wikipedia Revolution. London: Aurum Press.

Katharine Schopflin. 2014. "What do we Think an Encyclopaedia is?" Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research 6(3):483-503 (DOI: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146483)[4]

Patrick C. Fleming. 2016. "The Idea of an Encyclopedia". In. Pedagogy (Duke University Press) Volume 16, Issue 3, October 2016: pp. 569-575[5]

Ann Sartori. 2023. "Encyclopedia Definition, History & Examples", Study.com website (updated on 02/03/2023)[6]: [7]

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