The world as seen through the clarifying lens of the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1875-1889).

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

1. Preface

The 24 volumes and index of the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica were published between 1875 and 1889. It has become known as the 'Scholar's Edition' owing to the highbrow quality of the submitted articles. It was the last British edition before the enterprise passed to American publishers.

The 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is the print apotheosis of the Victorian world view. It is not a dry work of reference, but is alive with opinion and personality. There are plenty of examples of Empire-minded bombast and slanted jingoism, but again and again the freshness and modernity of a contributor's insights leap out at the 21st century reader. And then other parts might lead to legal action or at the least outraged offense if reprinted without contextual apology.

It is very heavy, takes up a lot of shelf space, and is usually given away rather than bought. Homes are sought for the 9th edition with a similar degree of mixed desperation and affection that the owners of a rare and over-sized breed of long-haired dog express when finding that their new apartment is just too small for the old boy.

When I get the opportunity, I like to preface an argument by saying "According to the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica..." It is a deeply satisfying thing to say, and opportunities to bend conversations in that direction do not come often enough for my liking. The object of this site is to address that deficiency.

There is an excellent website called which has many articles uploaded from the 9th edition, presumably with purpose of some day having the whole of it available to Interwebshire. This is a noble objective which deserves your unconditional support. If you don't know anyone desperate to throw away their edition, or simply don't have room for a pungent, silverfish-riddled addition to the family home, will provide you with the next best thing. Should you not have the time to browse randomly through the articles and formulate half-baked rants and misapprehensions of your own then look no further! According To The Ninth is here to help.

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