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The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia is one of the largest encyclopedic dictionaries of the English language. In its day it was compared favorably with the Oxford English Dictionary and frequently consulted for more factual information than would normally be the case for a dictionary.
The first edition was published from 1889 to 1891 by The Century Company of New York, and was describe as being "six volumes in twenty four". In 1895 a 10 volume edition was published, with the first eight volumes containing the dictionary proper, and the last two containing a biographical dictionary and a world atlas. Editions in either the 10 or 8 volume format were published in 1899, 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904. In 1901 the title and subtitle changed slightly from The Century Dictionary; an encyclopedic lexicon of the English language to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia; a work of universal reference in all departments of knowledge, with a new atlas of the world. Further editions were published in 1906, 1909 and 1911, this time in 12 volumes each.
The first edition was in 7,046 pages with some 10,000 wood-engraved illustrations. It was edited by Sanskrit scholar and linguist William Dwight Whitney, with Benjamin Eli Smith's assistance. It was a great expansion of the smaller Imperial Dictionary of the English Language, which in turn had been based on the 1841 edition of Noah Webster's American Dictionary.
After Whitney's death in 1894, supplementary volumes were published under Smith's supervision, including The Century Cyclopedia of Names (1894) and The Century Atlas (1897). A two-volume Supplement of new vocabulary, published in 1909, completed the dictionary. A reformatted edition, The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, was published in 1911 in twelve quarto volumes: ten of vocabulary, plus the volume of names and the atlas. This set went through several printings, the last in 1914. The same year, the ten vocabulary volumes were published as one giant volume, about 8500 pages in a very thin paper. The now much coveted India paper edition also appeared around this time, usually in five double volumes (rarely, in 10 single volumes) plus one additional for the Cyclopedia.
The completed dictionary contained over 500,000 entries, more than Webster's New International or Funk and Wagnalls New Standard, the largest other dictionaries of the period. Each form of a word was treated separately, and liberal numbers of quotations and additional information were included to support the definitions. In its etymologies, Greek words were not transliterated.
Although no revised edition of the dictionary was ever again published, an abridged edition with new words and other features, The New Century Dictionary (edited by H.G. Emery and K.G. Brewster; revision editor, Catherine B. Avery,) was published by Appleton-Century-Crofts of New York in 1927, and reprinted in various forms for over thirty-five years. The New Century became the basis for the American College Dictionary, the first Random House Dictionary, in 1947. The three-volume New Century Cyclopedia of Names, an expansion of the 1894 volume, was published in 1954, edited by Clarence Barnhart.
The Century Dictionary was admired for the quality of its entries, the craftsmanship in its design, typography, and binding, and its excellent illustrations. It has been used as an information source for the makers of many later dictionaries, including editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, who cited it over 2,000 times in the first edition. In 1913, Stewart Archer Steger from the University of Virginia published his Ph.D. dissertation "American Dictionaries" and devoted a 14-page Chapter VI to Century Dictionary. He concluded the chapter with these words: "Altogether, The Century Dictionary far surpasses anything in American lexicography".
The works are out of copyright, and efforts have been made to digitize the volumes.
|Vol 1.||1||A – Appet.||1889–91|
|2||Appet. – Bice||1889–91|
|3||Bice – Carboy||1889–91|
|4||Carboy – Cono.||1889–91|
|Vol 2.||5||Cono. – Deflect||1889–91, 1889–91|
|6||Deflect – Drool||1889–91|
|7||Droop – Expirant||1889–91|
|8||Expirant – Fz||1889–91|
|Vol 3.||9||G – Halve||1889–91, 1889–91, 1889–91|
|10||Halve – Iguvine||1889–91, 1889–91|
|11||Ihleite – Juno||1889–91|
|12||Juno – Lyverey||1889–91|
|Vol 4.||13||M – Mormon||1889–91, 1889–91, 1889–91|
|14||Mormon – Optic||1889–91|
|15||Optic – Pilar||1889–91|
|16||Pilar – Pyx-veil||1889–91|
|Vol 5.||17||Q – Ring||1889–91|
|18||Ring – Sea-gull||1889–91|
|19||Sea-gull – Smash||1889–91|
|20||Smash – Stro.||1889–91|
|Vol 6.||21||Stru. – Term||1889–91 1889–91|
|22||Term – Trust||1889–91|
|23||Trust – Vysar||1889–91|
|24||W – Z||1889–91|
|Vol 1||A. B. Celt||1895, 1897, 1901, 1904, 1906|
|Vol 2||Celt. – Drool||1895, 1897, 1901, 1901, 1904, 1904, 1906|
|Vol 3||Droop. E. F. G.||1895, 1897, 1897, 1904|
|Vol 4||H. I. J. K. L.||1895, 1897, 1901, 1901, 1904, 1904|
|Vol 5||M. N. O. Phar.||1895, 1897, 1901, 1904|
|Vol 6||Phar. Q. R. Salse.||1895, 1897, 1901, 1901, 1904|
|Vol 7||Salsi. – Tech.||1895, 1897, 1901, 1901, 1904, 1904|
|Vol 8||Tech. U. V. W. X. Y. Z||1895, 1897,1901, 1901, 1904|
|Vol 9||Proper Names||1897, 1904
|Vol 10||Atlas||1897, 1901|
|Vol 11||Dictionary Supplement A–L||1909, 1910, 1910, 1910|
|Vol 12||Dictionary Supplement M–Z||1910|
- 1911, University of Michigan and Cornell University
- Adams, James Truslow. Dictionary of American History. New York: Scribner, 1940.
- Bailey, Richard W. (1996). "Origins". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0014. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Metcalf, Allan (1996). "Typography". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 17–28. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0018. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Liberman, Anatoly (1996). "Etymology". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 29–54. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0000. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Gilman, E. W. (1996). "Definitions and Usage". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 55–67. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0003. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Lance, Donald M. (1996). "Pronunciation". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 68–78. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0006. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Hancher, Michael (1996). "Illustrations". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 79–115. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0009. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Barnhart, Robert K. (1996). "Aftermath". Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. 17 (1): 116–125. doi:10.1353/dic.1996.0012. ISSN 2160-5076.
- Steger, Stewart Archer (1913). "VI. The Century Dictionary". American dictionaries (Ph.D. University of Virginia). Baltimore: J.H. Furst. pp. 83–91. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
- S. Padraig Walsh Anglo-American General Encyclopedias 1704–1967 New York: R. R. Baker and Company, 1968 pp. 20–1