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Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc

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Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Founded 1768 (1768) (Edinburgh)
Founder Colin Macfarquhar
Andrew Bell
Country of origin Scotland
Headquarters location Chicago, Illinois
Key people Jacqui Safra (principal owner)
Imprints Merriam-Webster
Number of employees About 400 (300 in Chicago, 100 worldwide)[1]
Official website

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. is a Scottish-founded, now American company best known for publishing the Encyclopædia Britannica, the world's oldest continuously published encyclopedia.


The company was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 18th century, in the atmosphere of the Scottish Enlightenment. A printer, Colin Macfarquhar, and an engraver, Andrew Bell, formed a partnership to create a new book that would embody the new spirit of scholarship. William Smellie was engaged to edit the original three-volume work, published one volume at a time beginning in 1768.

The encyclopaedia's reputation grew throughout the publication of its subsequent volumes.

Sears Roebuck

The 11th edition was published in 1910-1911.

In 1920, the trademark and publication rights were sold to Sears Roebuck, which held them until 1943, when ownership passed to William Benton.

The 12th edition was published in 1921-1922, and the 13th edition was published in 1926.

A thoroughly revised 14th edition was published in 1929.

By the mid-1930s, the company headquarters had moved to Chicago, Illinois, United States, and the editorial staff were now no longer disbanded after the completion of a new edition, but kept on as a permanent editorial department, to keep pace with the rapid increase in knowledge at the time.

Starting in 1936, a new printing of the encyclopaedia was published each year, incorporating the latest changes and updates. In 1938, the first edition of the Britannica Book of the Year appeared. This annual supplement is still published today.

William Benton

William Benton published the Britannica from 1943 until his death in 1973. After the death of his widow Helen Benton in 1974, the Benton Foundation continued to manage the Britannica until it was sold to Jacqui Safra in 1996.

In 1947, Britannica released 10 Eventful Years, a compendium of World War II in 4 volumes.

In 1952, Britannica published the landmark set Great Books of the Western World, a 54-volume set of the "great books" of Western culture.

Publishing rights to Compton's Encyclopedia were acquired by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. in 1961.[2]

Merriam-Webster Inc. has been a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. since 1964.[3]

Jacqui Safra

The company declared bankruptcy in late 1995; in January 1996, the company was purchased by billionaire Swiss financier Jacqui Safra for $136 million, though this was far less than the CEO, Joseph J. Esposito, had hoped.[4]

The company was one of the first to offer encyclopaedia content online (in association with LexisNexis in the 1980s), and currently publishes in several mediums, including DVD and through its website.

Under Safra's ownership the company has experienced some financial woes with freelance contributors waiting up to six months for checks and staff going years without raises, according to a report in the New York Post. Cost-cutting measures have included mandates to use free photos. Britannica in December 2002 told employees it would raise the contribution paid into their 401(k) accounts, then eliminated them entirely. A company spokesman said: "We've had some cost reductions and belt-tightening but we're not going into details… We're a privately held company."[5]

See also


Further reading

  • “Encyclopædia Britannica May Refer to ‘For Sale’ to Raise Capital,” Portland Oregonian, April 7, 1995
  • Richard A. Melcher, “Dusting Off the Britannica,” Business Week, October 20, 1997
  • Robert McHenry, “The Building of Britannica Online”
  • Steve Barth, “Britannica on the Virtual Bookshelf,” Knowledge Management Magazine
  • Dorothy Auchter, “The Evolution of Encyclopædia Britannica,” Reference Services Review 27, no. 3: 297
  • Sydney Morning Herald online

External links

  • Company website
  • Encyclopædia Britannica Corporate, “Company History”
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