IN issuing this Subscription Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, two objects have been kept mainly in view,--in the first place, to secure perfect accuracy of reproduction; and, in the second, to do this at a cost so moderate as to place the work within the reach of the public at large. These ends have, it is believed, been attained in the edition now offered to the American people. To secure absolute correctness in the reproduction both of letterpress and illustrations, this work has been printed from the original stereotype plates of the English Edition. In all essential respects, therefore, the work as issued in the two countries is the same.
A word or two may be added as to the special features which make the Ninth Edition of the Encyclopædia a considerable advance on the last. In reconstructing the work so as adequately to meet the requirements of advancing knowledge, it was found necessary, while retaining its main outlines, to modify and enlarge the original plan. The modifications are seen in the greater number of headings devoted to Science in its two great departments of Physics and Biology. The new features will be found chiefly under the heads of Literature, History, and Philosophy. In relation to the first, the present edition will contain an historical outline and review of all the literatures of the world, both in ancient and modern times. I may point to the articles on American, Celtic, Chinese, English, and French literature, as illustrations of this new and important feature.
In the department of History, special attention has been given to the most fruitful branch of modern inquiry and research--the history of early culture, the growth and gradual development of primitive ideas, laws, customs, and institutions, as well as to the conditions and principles of social progress in historical and civilized communities. In a word, every effort has been made to represent in outline the circle of inquiries included in the modern sciences of Anthropology and Sociology.
In the biographical section, all the more important names connected with science, literature, and public life find a place. But this rule applies only to the completed record of illustrious lives, contemporary names being excluded, as, apart from the invidious task of selection, any attempt to deal, even in outline, with living men of eminence would have seriously changed the character of the work.
In Mental Philosophy and the important topics connected with Biblical Criticism, Theology, and the Science of Religion, the distinctive change in the new Edition relates to the method of treatment. In the first place, these subjects are dealt with at greater length, in harmony with the keen, intelligent, and general interest now concentrated upon them. In the second place, they are uniformly looked at from the critical and historical rather than the dogmatic point of view, as that best fitted both to the character of the work and the requirements of the modern reader. In relation to all important points still under discussion, the aim is to give a full and impartial outline of the actual state of the question. These lines have I believe, been carefully followed in the volumes already published, and they will, as far as possible, be faithfully adhered to in those which are to come.
In enumerating some of the features of the new Edition, it may be added that special attention has been devoted to the Geography, History, and Institutions of America, and that to obtain thoroughness and accuracy in this department, the services of well-qualified American writers have, as a rule, been secured. This was, indeed, essential to the character and aim of the work as an authoritative book of reference for English-speaking communities in every quarter of the globe.
St Andrews, January 1878.