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Heavens! Errors in the Encyclopaedia Britannica?!  Surely you jest!


OK, so I read Britannica in my spare time.  Yes, we actually have our own set.  No, this is the print version; I'm not doing a spell check on the CD-ROM version.  That would be the easy way out.  There are even more useless and nonproductive things to do, like obsessive-compulsive vacuuming and/or keeping your TV permanently set to the Weather Channel or, God help me, to QVC, the world's longest-running commercial.  I'd rather watch a test pattern - or, better yet, read Britannica.

I started reading the Britannica - commencing with Volume 1, Page 1 - in 1994 while seeking gainful employment after graduation from law school.  Between interviews and the night job stocking the shelves at the local Kmart, I had some time to kill.  And I wasn't about to watch QVC.  After a few hundred pages, I began to notice some errors in it.  I couldn't believe it.  Errors in the august Encyclopaedia Britannica?  Seriously, now.  But there they were.  I started keeping track of them.

The following list contains errors found in the first 10 volumes of the 1988 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Some errors had been corrected by the time the 1997 print edition was issued.  A few errors are debatable, such as the spelling of "Yury" (as opposed to "Yuri".)  A comparison with the 1997 edition is provided in the last column.

My eventual goal is to read the entire Britannica - all 32 volumes of it. I started in 1994. With the arrival of my son Matthew in May of 1999, though, I may not finish until well into my senior years!  I am currently midway through Volume 11.  Yes, there are a few errors in that volume as well.

It is not my intent to deride Britannica; rather; it's just to show that the reference "standard of the world", being created by humans, is not infallible.  I've had a few letter exchanges with them, and they have been quite gracious.  Chances are good that current editions no longer have the following errors.

Credit needs to go to my late father-in-law, who sold Britannica on a part-time basis after retirement.  His efforts to convince suburban Detroiters of the need to have their own set was successful enough to earn his three daughters and sons-in-law a free set each.  Thanks, Mr. B.

-KPG


Volume Page Column Entry Title Error (1988 Edition) 1997 Edition Comparison
1 208 1 Albania "Mao Tse-tung's death in 1978"...should read 1976. (last sentence of entry.) Mao Tse-tung not mentioned in 1997 edition.
6 918 1 knot theory "Uusally" should be "usually". (last paragraph) Entire entry dropped from 1997 edition.
7 457 2 Lon Nol Missing parenthesis (formerly Cambodia Phrase dropped from 1997 edition.
7 946 3 Matthews, Stanley Yick Wo v. Hopkins case decided in 1886, not 1866. See 118 U.S. 356, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 2d 220 (1886). Error is also in 1997 edition.
8 185 1 Mishima Yukio "disembowling" should read "disembowelling" (last paragraph). See COED p. 445/765. Error is also in 1997 edition. While spelled "disemboweling" in 1997 ed., the COED recognizes only "disembowelling". "Disembowel" and "disembowelment" are listed in Webster's (p. 648).
8 435 1 Murrow, Edward (Egbert) R(oscoe) "radiobroadcasting" spelled as one word; the COED does not recognize this spelling. Should be either "radio broadcasting" or "radiocasting". See COED p. 1500/102. But "radiobroadcast" is listed in Webster's (p. 1873). Error is also in 1997 edition.
8 531 1 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) "NAACP's legal council" should probably read "NAACP's legal counsel". Reads the same in the 1997 edition.
8 589 3 Nelson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount "curious little partly" should probably read "curious little party". Error corrected in 1997 edition.
8 631 1 New Brunswick (city) The Boy Scouts of America headquarters moved to Irving, Texas, in 1979, nine years prior to publication of the 1988 edition. (Source: http://www.bsa.scouting.org/comm/02-551g.htm) Corrected in 1997 edition.
8 687 1 Nicholas, Saint "Aisa Minor" should read "Asia Minor". Corrected in 1997 edition.
8 768 3 Normandy Invasion Unnecessary period after "bunkers". Period is still in 1997 edition.
8 775 2 North America "tellerium" should read "tellurium" (COED p. 2022/741; Webster's p. 2351, col. 3.). "tantalium" should read "tantalum"; the COED describes "tantalium" as an obsolete spelling (p. 2009/619). "tellurium" corrected in 1997 edition. "tantalium" not mentioned.
8 777 3 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) "partricipation" should read "participation" (next to last paragraph). Corrected in 1997 edition.
8 906 1 Old age "Otto von Bismark" should read "Otto von Bismarck". "Bismark" still in 1997 edition. See Bismarck, Otto von, 1997 ed., v. 2, p. 242, col. 1.
8 1027 3 Osler, Sir William "clincial" should read "clinical". See COED 270/328. Corrected in 1997 edition.
9 138 1 Paraguay "exhorbitant" should read "exorbitant". Rewritten; correct as rewritten.
9 305 1 Perrin, Jean (-Baptiste) "d. April, 17, 1942..." - extra comma after April. Error is also in 1997 edition.
9 462 1 Piper, William Thomas "age 73..." Math impossible. 63 perhaps? Entry rewritten in 1997 edition, obviating need for mention of age.
9 784 2 Puebla (city) "Volkswagon" should be "Volkswagen" Error is also in 1997 edition. See Volkswagen AG, 1997 ed., vol. 12, p. 423, col. 1.
9 784 2 Puebla, Battle of "seige" should be "siege" Error is also in 1997 edition.
9 883 2 radar "(see also radio astronomy" - missing right parenthesis. Corrected in 1997 edition.
9 901 2 Rahman, Mujibur Either the death date is incorrect, or he assumed power in January 1975, rather than 1974. Corrected in 1997 edition.
9 1006 1 Reich, Wilhelm "Scandanavian" should be spelled "Scandinavian". Corrected in 1997 edition.
9 1012 2 Reith (of Stonehaven), John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st baron "radiobroadcasting" spelled as one word. Should be either "radio broadcasting" or "radiocasting". See discussion in entry for Murrow, Edward (Egbert) R(oscoe), p. 1. Error is also in 1997 edition.
10 56 1 Richthofen, Ferdinand Paul Wilhelm, Freiherr von Entry notes birth date as May 5, 1833. It also notes that he wrote Aufgaben und Methoden der heutigen Geographie in 1833, an impressive achievement for an infant. Error is also in 1997 edition.
10 121 2 rock (also called ROCK AND ROLL) "Bob Seeger" should probably read "Bob Seger". Confusion with Pete Seeger? "Bob Seeger" still in 1997 edition.
10 299 2 Sagan, Carl (Edward) "worked an several U.S. ..." should read "worked on several U.S. ..." Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 312 2 St. Christopher and Nevis, Federation of (1997 edition entry: Saint Kitts and Nevis) The Land. "...except for along, narrow peninsula..." should read "...except for a long, narrow peninsula..." Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 387 2 San Diego "University of California and San Diego" should read "University of California at San Diego". Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 400 3 San Simeon Pop. (1980) (population number missing.) Population not provided in 1997 edition.
10 541 3 Schulz, Charles "Schultz" spelling used at beginning of second paragraph; should read "Schulz". Error is also in 1997 edition.
10 659 2 set theory "symbol symbol 0" should probably read "symbol 0". Error is also in 1997 edition.
10 664 3 Sevastopol "seige" should be "siege"; this word is spelled correctly earlier in the entry. Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 696 1 Shanghai "approximatley" should read "approximately". Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 718 2 shell collecting "mullusk" should read "mollusk" (2nd full paragraph). See COED 1104/976. Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 725 2 Shepard, Alan (Bartlett), Jr. "Yury" Gagarin should probably read "Yuri" Gagarin. Reads the same in the 1997 edition.
10 750 2 Shirer, William L(awrence) "Wendell Wilkie" should read "Wendell Willkie". Willkie not mentioned in 1997 edition. See Willkie, Wendell L(ewis), 1997 ed., v. 12, p. 684, col. 1.
10 771 2 shuffleboard "1 by 6 in. [2 1/2 by 15 m] should probably read "1 by 6 in. [2 1/2 by 15 cm]". (last paragraph) Error is also in 1997 edition.
10 788 3 Siemens AG "Seimens AG", rather than "Siemens AG", in last paragraph. Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 802 1 sila "Eghtfold Path", rather than "Eightfold Path". Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 827 1 Sina' al-Janubiyah (1997 ed. entry: Janub Sina') "economicay" shoud read "economically" (1st full paragraph) "Economically" spelled correctly in 1997 edition (last paragraph).
10 871 2 slang "Fannie May" should probably read "Fannie Mae". See, e.g., http://www.fanniemae.com Reads the same in the 1997 edition.
10 916 3 soap opera (2nd paragraph) should read "By the mid-1950's it had dominated..." Paragraph rewritten in 1997 edition; paragraph correct as rewritten.
10 927 3 Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais Acronymic confusion. SNCE (1st paragraph), SNCF (2nd paragraph), SNFC (3rd paragraph). Corrected in 1997 edition.
10 950 2 Solomon Islands "The first European to reach the islands (1968)..." should probably read (1568). Corrected in 1997 edition.


Last Updated on January 25, 2003
By Kevin P. Gray

Contents copyright �2003 Kevin P. Gray.  All rights reserved. 


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