The Encyclopaedia Britannica was first published as a series which could be bound into three volumes between 1668 and 1771 - a subscription costing twelve pounds. A second enlarged edition was published in 1778, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica has been republished ever since to become one of the most famous encyclopaedias of all time.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica was the idea of Andrew Bell, an engraver and Colin MacFarquhar a printer who wanted to produce a work that was simple and entertaining, unlike the existing tedious encyclopaedias available. They employed a third man to edit the work, William Smellie, a renowned scholar and editor of literary works. Smellie copied existing, published works - from such authors as Bacon, Locke, Hume and Voltaire - as well as adding his own definitions and essays to the encyclopaedia - most controversially criticising Dr Johnson in his production of his dictionary; Bell provided engravings and MacFarquhar published and sold the work.
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William Smellie was a Scottish naturalist editor and writer. He was born in 1740 at Edinburgh and died in 1795. Apprenticed to the firm of printers for Edinburgh University, William Smellie was allowed by the university to attend lectures, and quickly made a name for himself as a scholar. He was later approached by Andrew Bell and Colin Macfarquhar and asked to edit the encyclopaedia they wished to produce. William Smellie then became one of the trio to produce the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and although he acknowledged copying and inserting existing articles by some 150 authors, William Smellie also wrote his own articles including a controversial criticism on Doctor Johnson and his dictionary. During his day, William Smellie was renowned for his scholarship, sense of humour and wit, love of Robert Burns' poetry and equally strong love of public houses.
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