Britannica Public Domain

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As I understand it, Project Gutenberg has published what they call the "Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia". What this actually is, is the classic 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, because Britannica is a trademark, even though the text is now public domain (because it is so old), they were unable to call it "Encyclopaedia Britannica".

Call it what you will, it is available, and we should consider putting the entire text here, in the Wikipedia. This may be a lot of work (like my own pet project, which is cutting and pasting all of the public domain CIA World Factbook over in Countries of the world -- please help me!), but it sure would be a fun thing to have in here. People could start updating/replacing the articles with Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia as the foundation.

Also, I bet there are a lot of instances where the text of the article could be wikified by cramming words together. -- Jimbo Wales


Whoa, WhatACoincidence. I just now was downloading vol#1 from it and seeing what it'd take to put it in. :-)

The license says it's in the public domain and we can do whatever we please with it...

I will volunteer to work on chopping out all of the articles from volume 1 and posting them in the appropriate places. Other than really basic stuff, I'm not going to fiddle with the formatting nor update any inaccuracies contained in them, so anyone seeing things to change, correct, or update should lay into it.

The two MAJOR concerns I have in doing this is (a) the information may be WAY out of date in some cases, maybe even to the point of uselessness, and (b) the articles may be too long for the average wikitizen to get into - they may feel too intimidated by the length and tone of the article to add or correct as we'll need.

But, I guess we'll never know unless we try, so here goes... ;-) -- BryceHarrington


I would suggest adding "PG" or "EB" or "11" at the end of the name of any page that is taken from EB© Then we could edit versions of that, while the original is preserved© -- Larry Sanger


It appears that only the first volume of this encyclopedia was entered into PG... It occurs to me that if people are interested in the original, then they can always just go to the project gutenberg site, and then be certain they're getting the straight stuff. Or they can trust my cut-and-paste skill and look at revision 0...

I think our purpose in using that material is just as a starting point for our own encyclopedia... Thus I think it'd be better if I just plugged them right into the topics, without putting 'EB' on the topicname. So we'd have just one copy of each article, plus any commentary placed on top of them by subsequent editing. Does that sound okay? -- BryceHarrington


Sounds alright -- WojPob


In looking it over, there's two rules we'll have to follow. First, we cannot use the name "Britannica" because that is a trademark. Second, Project Gutenberg requires that NO mention is made of Project Gutenberg if the text is altered from what they supply. We are free to copy and reuse the text, and edit it as we wish, but can't claim it is from Encyclopaedia Britannica nor from Project Gutenberg. Weird, eh? Anyway... Correct me if I've misinterpreted the various bits of small text. -- BryceHarrington


Where can I find the 11th edition for download? I've banged around on the EB site and can't find it. I'd like to start updating and adding the articles. Thanks.


It's not on the Britannica site. Hard to find via google too. ftp://ftp.cdrom.com/pub/gutenberg/etext95 Look for pge*, etext #200, Jan 1995.


For this material to be truly useful, it needs to be marked as from Brittanica of that edition, and NO EDITTING ALLOWED! Otherwise, it's useless. On a related note, without being able to cite references, and without examining references other people have cited, the usefulness of material here is limited to, well, relatively useless stuff. Is there a way to mark up citations automatically? Or am I missing the point somewhere?


I couldn't disagree more. The text of these articles is ours--it belongs to us, the public. We can and should use it in every way that could possibly benefit our project. If that means copying some things verbatim (An article on the history of the letter "A" certainly shouldn't need much updating), then we can do that. If that means completely ignoring some articles that are too hopelessly out of date or out of context, then we should do that. But I think there's a vast area in between where we can take the information from these articles and write our own in more modern language and with other updates and additions. No credit is necessary, as "authorship" is not a relevant concept here. We might also use even the out-of-date texts as examples of outdated historical ideas. We should certainly use things like illustrations and tables. It's a great source, and while I agree that the text in Wikipedia should be written by live humans in our modern context, those people should take advantage of this source in whatever way they feel appropriate. --LDC


LDC: Thanks, nice explanation. A moments reflection of what I wrote previously bears qualifying, namely how I measure usefulness for myself. I completely agree about lack of credit (thus anonymity suits me well for anything I write here).


The first volume can be found here
http://sailor.gutenberg.org/etext95/pge0112.txt

Is there a e-text of the other volumes?

A script could be used to wikify the text.


Thanks, I've downloaded it but I don't expect to be adding any of it for awhile. I would like to know about the other volumes too (though I don't expect to finish 'A through ANDROPHAGI' for quite awhile--it unzips to an 8 MB text file.)


I could not find any other volumes other than 'A'; I guess whomever started putting it into Gutenberg must have given up after the first volume. Also, I don't know if *all* of the entries ought to be placed in Wikipedia; many of them are irrelevant to say the least. I'd encourage picking and choosing; people can always go back to the original Gutenberg text if they *must* know that the vice-bishop of cambrishire from 1889-1894 was an avid collector of moths and wrote sonnets about the Holy Ghost. ;-)


This topic is also mentioned on Wikipedia Projects/Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia

I'm working on posting more articles from it also. Many of the articles are definitely worthless in my opinion. Obviously opinions will vary. Many basic facts on historical cities or figures may be good and worth posting. Other articles (such as 19th-century contemporary politicians or towns/villages in existence in 1911) do not seem to have contemporary relevance, so I'm skipping them.

I think it's going to be discretionary as to what is worth keeping, but that's the beauty of the Wikipedia: anyone else can fix it later :-)

- Alan Millar


Is it known whether anybody is currently scanning the other volumes? --AxelBoldt

wouldn't it be nice to edit an article that began with somthing other than A?

I've got the 9th and 10th editions of this encyclopedia (1870-1900, which should be out of copyright if the 1911 edition is), but don't want to destroy the bindings to scan the text in. I'll be typing up odd bits of material from these volumes to add to pages, like the paragraph I added to Falkland Islands/History. There's a load of nice victorian engravings in these volumes that I could scan in for illustrations; count this as another request for a picture upload facility - [[[Malcolm Farmer]]