BE MYTH OF THE BRITANNICA: The Great Encyclopedia of the Western World- Reputation and Reality by Harvey Einbinder
Kirkus Star

BE MYTH OF THE BRITANNICA: The Great Encyclopedia of the Western World- Reputation and Reality

Email this review


Librarians will remember the controversial series of articles, published in the Columbia Forum during 1960-61. Dr. Einbinder investigated a set of EB and described his encounters with outdated, erroneous, incomplete and partisan articles. The author's charge that the original purpose of an encyclopedia-- to compile existing knowledge and reflect the state of culture during given periods-- had been abandoned. Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, chairman of the EB board, evaded these charges and noted in rebuttal that ""only 90 out of Britannica's 42,000 articles"" had been disparaged. Hence, this book, which supplies more evidence ""that an enormous gap exists between the encyclopedia's lofty reputation and its actual contents"". The early chapters of the book examine articles in the arts and the social sciences designating specific articles and showing instances of obsolescence, incomplete and out-dated bibliographies and new information either missing or ignored. The author, a consulting physicist, continues with an investigation of articles in the sciences with similar findings and the further charge of incomprehensibility. The program of ""continuous revision"" receives an enlightening critique. The nature of the tie between the University of Chicago (a major stock holder) and the owner/ publisher (William Benton) is described at length. The editor (a journalist) and the editorial methods employed are criticized and last, but not least, Britannica's sales and advertising techniques are reviewed. Among his many constructive suggestions, Dr. Einbinder asks that articles be dated as well as signed. Of particular interest to those engaged in information services.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1963
Publisher: Grove