Wheaton College and the Encyclopedia Britannica

For over 200 years, from 1768 to the present, the Encyclopedia Britannica has published “the sum of knowledge,” collecting articles on a vast array of subjects written by experts. For decades the multi-volume set has graced the shelves of homes, schools and libraries the world over. In 2012 the company announced that the 2010 edition would be the final printed set. From now on Encyclopedia Britannica will be published exclusively online. Throughout the decades Britannica has engaged the talents of many capable contributors to write entries. One such was Dr. S. Richey Kamm, professor of history and political science at Wheaton College. In 1958 Kamm was asked by John V. Dodge, Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, to revise an article about Lincoln, Illinois. Dodge instructed Kamm to not exceed 150 words and emphasize Abraham Lincoln’s role concerning the the city. The article was to completely replace the previous version, “to be written from a fresh point of view.” Dodge included a four-page, single-spaced Contributor’s Guide. “The typical reader of an Encyclopedia Britannica article is a person of average intelligence and education,” states the Guide, “not a specialist. Specialists seldom, if ever, consult Britannica articles in their own or related fields.” The Guide covers such matters as organization, length, quotations, copyright, bibliography, illustrations, captions and photographs. “There is, of course, no pat formula for a good article,” the Guide goes on. “Generally speaking, the article should proceed from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex. Many articles may be best organized in chronological order, but it is advisable to consider other possibilities.” Kamm continued revising this entry for several more editions.

Kamm’s handwritten corrections for the 1967 entry about Lincoln, Illinois

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