The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica is out of copyright
and can be used as a source of material for the English Wikipedia
A scanned version of the encyclopedia has been posted
at 1911encyclopedia.org (http://1911Encyclopedia.org).
CD-Roms can be purchased at classiceb.com (http://classiceb.com).
Neither of these are from the publisher of the modern Encyclopædia Britannica. They are using it as public domain material just as we are.
However, it is now quite old, and there are many problems with this material in a modern encyclopedia.
The following is a checklist of things to do to make this material most useful for Wikipedia.
A simple cut-and-paste is never sufficient.
- Use for information only: Strongly consider using the article for information only. That is, restructure and rewrite the whole article, supplementing the encyclopedia information with other sources. That isn't always worth the effort, so the following are some points to keep in mind when using encyclopedia material.
- Unreliable scanned source: Since the source is scanned, there are often typographical errors or gaps in the text, often where there are accents or other diacritical marks, and also particularly at the end, where some material may be at the top of the succeeding article. You must copy-edit material carefully for gross errors, give it Wikipedia markup, and, as always, check the Wikipedia index for associated material and link as needed.
- Unreliable old information: Many facts given have been supplanted, diseases overcome, kings overthrown, new materials and new uses for old materials discovered, and so forth. You should run a Google (http://www.google.com) search or check some other reference sources and not rely entirely on the Encyclopædia material.
- Obsolete formatting and wordiness: The articles are very complete and the paragraphs are very long. Almost all articles can benefit from being broken up into shorter paragraphs for online reading and most articles can be shortened without loss for modern readers. You may also want to insert crossheads every time the subject changes. Dates should be converted from forms like 17th of June 1844 to June 17, 1844. The bibliographical notes are particularly cluttered and should be pared down to title, author, and date.
- Old fashioned attitudes: Many attitudes expressed are outdated, particularly with regard to race. Phrases like "the first white man" can be replaced by "the first European". Other attitudes may be prudish or too much in line with the interests of Victorian England.
- Names have changed: Many names have been changed as colonialism has been replaced by nationalism. Fernando Po is now Bioko. "Somali country" is now Somalia (and part of Yemen), and so forth. Many people familiar to the 1911 reader have slipped into obscurity. It is no longer sufficient to say "Lord Derby said"; he has to be identified more.
- British spelling: The presentation is British, and also designed for compactness. You may want to change spellings like "labour" to "labor", particularly if the topic is American. And you may also want to add periods after "Mrs" and the like. However, British spelling per se is perfectly acceptable in the Wikipedia, so this is up to your own tastes.
- Victorian prose should be checked but can be quoted: The prose style is Victorian and sometimes may seem somewhat stuffy to modern eyes. On the other hand, it has a much stronger point of view than the usual modern encyclopedia. You may want to change wording here and there. If the Encyclopædia makes a particularly striking judgement, rather than paraphrasing, you may simply want to quote it directly:
- The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica puts it, "Burton had not the charm of style or imagination which gives immortality to a book of travel."
There is some beautifully written material in the Encyclopaedia that has not been outmoded and still can serve modern readers as is.
You should feel free to quote even long sections giving proper credit and including a link to 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Although the Encyclopædia is not copyright and you can copy its phrasing directly if you wish, Wikipedia cannot advertise the presence of this material using the word "Britannica", which is a trademark of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Of course, we can still use that phrase within our pages to give proper credit.
Indeed, you should always note your sources on the Talk page.
The 1911 Encyclopædia can continue to be a resource for readers well into the 21st century with some care and discretion in using it.
Recommended reference style
*This article incorporates text from the public domain ''[[1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica]]''. Please update as needed.
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