A set of books that concentrate knowledge in an organized way, usually in alphabetical order. The traditional format of the encyclopedia is a book, but there are other forms such as fascicles, CDs or an online version.
As for its etymological origin, the word encyclopedia comes from a Greek expression “enkyklios paideia”, translated as circular education . In this sense, it should be taken into account that in Ancient Greece there were already collectors of books intended for the education of students.
A historical brushstroke
The current concept of the encyclopedia emerged in France, during the 18th century, in the middle of the intellectual climate of the Enlightenment . A group of distinguished philosophers and scientists promoted a great project: to elaborate an encyclopedia that would be a synthesis of all knowledge. This task was carried out by characters such as Diderot, D’Alembert, Montesquieu and Voltaire, known as encyclopedists.
After some years of intense work, the first encyclopedia, the 1’Enyclopédie, appeared in 1751, the year of its first edition, also called Encyclopedia or Rational Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts. This work was something more than an encyclopedic dictionary, as it represented the scientific and critical spirit of the time.
The French encyclopedia inspired the British
The first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica appeared in 1768 and since then has not ceased to be published, but currently there is only a digital version.
At the end of the 20th century, conventional encyclopedias lost their usefulness with the emergence of the internet . It should be noted that the traditional encyclopedia has a series of inconveniences: its high price, the need for constant updating or lack of space. With the technological revolution, hundreds of volumes can fit on a pendrive or CD. This format change did not change the original idea of the encyclopedic model. In fact, whoever reads this entry is consulting an encyclopedia and whoever writes it is an encyclopedist in a current version.
The current panorama of encyclopedias
New technologies allow other ways to understand the classic encyclopedias. Currently there are sound files, digital formats with hypertexts, search engines, personalized tools and, definitely, automated procedures that multiply the technical possibilities of encyclopedias.