Wikipedia:WikiProject Encyclopaedia Britannica

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This is the main page for WikiProject Encyclopaedia Britannica, concerned with importing and adapting material from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB), a large encyclopedia, with a focus on the articles from older editions that are now in the public domain. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition is a major resource with 29 volumes that are public domain. There are also earlier editions which have coverage some subjects dropped by the eleventh edition, in particular the 9th edition which like the 11th edition is partially available on Wikisource (see s:EB1911 and S:EB9 and s:EB1922)

Administrative basics[edit]

Wikipedia:WikiProject Missing encyclopedic articles is the parent WikiProject of this project. s:WS:EB1911 is the sister project dealing with the proof-reading of texts.

The single most useful category for this project is probably Category:Wikipedia articles incorporating a citation from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica relating to the {{Cite EB1911}} template. One of the subcategories is Category:Wikipedia articles incorporating text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica which contains the categories generated by the {{EB1911}} template.

Background: Encyclopaedia Britannica[edit]

This needs filling out

The history of adaptation[edit]

Starting in 2006, much of the still-useful text in the 1911 Encyclopaedia was adapted and absorbed into Wikipedia. Special focus was given to topics that had no equivalent in Wikipedia at the time. The process we used is outlined at the end of this page. Since then, a lot of the text has been incrementally improved or replaced by more modern information as editors slowly made Wikipedia better. A small number of articles are still missing details that could be usefully imported, but they are few. If you want to do this, refer to the tips at the end.

Now what's important is re-annotating the articles according to current ideas of attribution and citation. In 2006, it was considered sufficient to tag articles with the {{1911}} template; now, Wikipedia's citation conventions require more. See Category:Wikipedia articles_incorporating a citation from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica with no article parameter for one source of such articles.

The original adaptation did not consistently make use of the 1922 edition, which is a three-volume supplement containing updates for the 1911 edition. It may be useful in, for example, adding new biographical material to then-living subjects. See Wikipedia:WikiProject Missing encyclopedic articles/1922 verification for more details.

Recommended reference style[edit]

While there are more articles missing than available, more and more articles are available in Wikisource (see 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica). In these cases, a link to Wikisource can be used as documented below.

Attributing EB 1911 articles[edit]

If an article contains text copied from the Eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, suitable attribution must be provided (see the Plagiarism guideline). The template {{EB1911}} is provided to aid the editor with adding attribution.

 * Bullet list of other references

 *{{EB1911|title=name of EB article}}

Which appears as:


  • Bullet list of other references


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "name of EB article". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

The documentation to be found by following the link to {{EB1911}} explains how to add more parameters such as volume and page numbers as well as the author of the article if one is given (many of the articles were written anonymously).

If the article exists in Wikisource use: wstitle=


appears as:

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Anarchism" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Otherwise use title= and url=:


appears as:

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Anarchism". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Studylight is a secondary source with advertising, but the text can be copied to your clipboard. contains authentic scans; the above example would use

Use inline citations[edit]

If as above a long citation is used in a References section, then those sentences or paragraphs which contain text copied from EB1911 should be noted with a short inline citation as described in WP:CITESHORT.

 Anapaest, a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two short and the third
 long and accented; so called as the reverse of a dactyl, which has the first a long syllable,
 followed by two short ones. An anapaestic verse is one which only contains, or is mostly made
 up of, anapaestic feet.<ref>Chisholm 1911, p. 914.<ref>

 == Notes ==

 == References ==
  * {{EB1911 |wstitle=Anapaest |volume=1 |page=914}}

Anapaest, a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two short and the third long and accented; so called as the reverse of a dactyl, which has the first a long syllable, followed by two short ones. An anapaestic verse is one which only contains, or is mostly made up of, anapaestic feet.[1]


  1. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 914.


As an alternative one can use long inline citations as described in WP:INLINECITE. In which case an "inline=1" parameter is used:

 Anapaest, a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two short and the third
 long and accented; so called as the reverse of a dactyl, which has the first a long syllable,
 followed by two short ones. An anapaestic verse is one which only contains, or is mostly made
 up of, anapaestic feet.<ref>{{EB1911|inline=1 |wstitle=Anapaest |volume=1 |page=914}}</ref>

 == References ==

Anapaest, a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two short and the third long and accented; so called as the reverse of a dactyl, which has the first a long syllable, followed by two short ones. An anapaestic verse is one which only contains, or is mostly made up of, anapaestic feet.[1]


  1. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Anapaest" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 914.

Whether one uses inline short or long citations is usually dictated by prior usage in the article (see WP:CITEVAR). However if no choice has been made by a previous, editor then the inline short and long citation in the references section works well for all types of article, but is particularly useful when the EB article spans multiple pages, while the long inline citation works well for short one page or less articles (such as the one paragraph Anapaest article above).

Citing EB articles[edit]

If a Wikipedia article uses information contained in a Encyclopaedia Britannica article but does not copy the text, there is a template called {{Cite EB1911}} which takes the same variables as the attribution template above.

*{{Cite EB1911|wstitle=Clerke, Agnes Mary}}

appears as:

Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Clerke, Agnes Mary" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

See {{Cite EB1911}} for a full list of parameters.

Completing the parameter list[edit]

Whenever possible, include the following parameters in a {{EB1911}} or {{Cite EB1911}} template. Very little extra effort is needed to determine the values of some of them.

  • volume= and page=. Usually you know the volume, at least, from Wikisource or a scanned book.
  • first=, last=, and authorlink=, plus their "2" and "3" variants for multi-author articles. When, as often happens, an EB1911 author's middle name or names are known, include them under first.
  • display= is usually used when a Wikisource article has a disambiguation tag that's not present in the printed version. For example, write:
{{EB1911|wstitle=Ramsay, Allan (painter)|display=Ramsay, Allan|volume=22|pages=878–879}}

since the "(painter)" tag is needed to locate the correct Wikisource article, but doesn't appear in the encyclopaedia itself. Currently, display is recognized with wstitle but not title, but it is never wrong to include it with title, because eventually the original will appear in Wikisource and the parameter will be seen.

Poster template[edit]

If there is an article from Eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on Wikisource, then the template {{Cite EB1911}} can be used in the "further reading" or the "external links" sections to inform the reader of this, but as an alternative, there is a "poster template" which will place a box on the right of the section into which it is placed.

If the article exists in wikisource use:

{{EB1911 poster|Anarchism}}

appears as:

N.B. do not put an asterisk in front of {{EB1911 poster}} as it removes the box from around the template.

Other templates[edit]

See also Category:1911 Britannica templates
  • Template:Update-EB – should be in the main body of 1911-based articles that contain known or suspected out of date material and should be verified
  • Template:Ni-eb – in the main body or talk page of substandard articles that could be improved by including 1911 material
  • Template:Include-eb – preferably in the talk page of articles that are acceptable, but could be expanded by reference to additional material in 1911

Legal notes[edit]

Sometimes versions of the 1911 EB may claim a new copyright. The following may clarify the merits or otherwise of such a claim.

In US law, typographical corrections are not sufficient to create a new copyright. Sites which rely on that and/or correction of scanning don't actually have a valid copyright claim unless they add some new creative content. See the West Publishing decisions described at Feist v. Rural and this quote from Matthew Bender v. West Publishing Co., which is itself taken from Grove Press, Inc. v. Collectors Publication, Inc., 264 F. Supp. 603, 605 (C.D. Cal. 1967):

"Plaintiff made approximately forty thousand changes from the Verlag copy in producing its edition. These changes consisted almost entirely of elimination and addition of punctuation, changes of spelling of certain words, elimination and addition of quotation marks, and correction of typographical errors. These changes required no skill beyond that of a [1967] high school English student and displayed no originality. These changes are found to be trivial." [1]

In addition, correcting a scan to restore it to the original text is not creative, since it's simply restoring the work to its original public domain form.

Care is needed to distinguish between such "trivial" changes which don't create a copyright and the possibility that there's a new article or additional material of some sort involved, for any new material could be copyrighted. This appears to be a problem with at least two online versions (see below).

Trademark law doesn't provide ongoing protection beyond the expiration of copyright. See Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (2003),

Online versions of the encyclopaedia[edit]

Several online sources are available for consultation by editors. A list of these can be found at

In addition, CD-Roms can be purchased at (which is not the publisher of the modern Encyclopædia Britannica).

The commercial versions at Other sources for 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica text not only have scanning errors, but are potentially tainted by additional, copyrighted material and cannot be trusted to contain the pure out-of-copyright text. Their content should be crosschecked with a scanned version or the Gutenberg version.


One of the tasks of the project is to identify any further guidelines that will be needed for editing material in older editions Encyclopaedia Britannica.

For example, Encyclopaedia Britannica articles may sometimes contain assessments of the subjects, and these should not appear in Wikipedia articles as simple factual statements when they are at best editorial comment. Where such assessments are of interest and still relevant, they may be rephrased as opinions See WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV.


The scale and ambition of the project is large, given that the eleventth edition of the 1911 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica had 40,000 articles in 29 volumes (the 9th edition had 17,000 articles but they were larger so the size of the Encyclopaedia remained about the same). So the need for a formal project comes from the sheer number of articles to adapt and track.

Sign-up list for participants[edit]

  1. PBS (talk) 12:15, 17 November 2013 (UTC)
  2. David Brooks (talk) 20:49, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
  3. DivermanAU (talk) 01:14, 1 October 2018 (UTC)

Current agenda[edit]

  • Fixing the backlog of problems identified in the template categories
  • Develop an index of all EB1911 articles with tick marks for whether they exist on Wikisource and Wikipedia.
  • linking existing articles on wiksource to the matching article on Wikpedia (if the text is not used to the "Further reading" or "External links" sections
  • Discuss how to manage "wanted" articles
  • Select statistics and backlogs that are most important to monitor

The history[edit]

Ideal forms of adaptation[edit]

Starting from the text of an Encyclopaedia Britannica article that is in the public domain, there are two basic methods in which it might be used in Wikipedia.

New article

If there is currently no Wikipedia article on the subject of the biography, one may be created by copying the original source and editing the text:

  • convert any inline Encyclopaedia Britannica references into footnotes but make sure to follow the guidance SAYWHEREYOUREADIT. Normally, you will not have read the source cited by Encyclopaedia Britannica, so don't cite it. If you indeed do check EB's source, then cite it as a new reference.
  • Create an adequate lead section.
  • Wikify and copy edit the text, updating any old-fashioned prose and trimming out excess detail.
  • Sort into sections.
  • Add the {{EB1911}} attribution template at the end (see Wikipedia:Plagiarism).

The ideal situation is that {{EB1911}} can be filled in with a link to the Wikisource version of the article. This deals with the needs of the reader who wishes to see what references EB gave, or would like to chase up detail that has been removed.

Such articles should also be linked in to other pages, and appropriate categories added. A link to the the current Encyclopaedia Britannica is also justified if it covers the subject, but if it is not cited place it in a Further reading or external links section.

Add to existing article

If there is already a Wikipedia article on the subject, it may be a stub, or a fuller article. For a very short stub treatment as for a new article may be appropriate. Otherwise content from the older editions Encyclopaedia Britannica should be added, carefully and tactfully, as required-- material in the older editions Encyclopaedia Britannica should not be used to contradict or supersede well sourced later material. Additions should be referenced inline using {{Cite EB1911}} or similar annotation. If text from older editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica is used, {{EB1911}} or similar annotation should also be added to the references section of the article. Both these templates (or similar annotation) should be filled in with details such as author (if there is one many articles were written anomalously) and the article title. If the original EB1911 article exists on Wikisource then when using {{Cite EB1911}} or {{EB1911}} then use the parameter wstitle=article title to link to the Wikisource article (see below for more details).

EB1911 howto[edit]

The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica is out of copyright and can in some cases be used as a source of material for the English Wikipedia.

In accordance to the Plagiarism guideline, the inclusion of text from the 1911 of the Encyclopaedia Britannica which would be a breach of copyright if the edition was still under copyright "must be cited and attributed through the use of an appropriate" (see appropriate section below).

There are a number templates to aid with attributing and citing the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. These are:

  • {{EB1911}} which must be used when attribution is necessary.
  • {{Cite EB1911}} can be used in place of the standard template {{cite encyclopedia}} as it fill out the standard fields that do not change (such as editor).
  • {{EB1911 poster}} for use in the external links section if there is an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on wikisource about the subject with is not cited by the Wikipedia article.

The good, the bad and the ugly[edit]

There is some beautifully written material in the Encyclopaedia Britannica that has not been outmoded and still can serve modern readers. You should feel free to quote sections using the {{quote}} template, as long as you do so from an original, textually reliable source, giving proper credit and including a link to 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

As the text in the Encyclopaedia Britannica is no longer under copyright you may copy its text directly into a Wikipeda article. If you do so you must attribute the text as specified in the Plagiarism guideline.

The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica can continue to be a resource for readers well into the 21st century, as long as editors use it with care and discretion. It is now quite old, and there are many problems with this material in a modern encyclopaedia. Even in 1917, the U.S. art critic, Willard Huntington Wright, criticized it as an unreliable source in his scathing Misinforming a Nation, a 200+ page critical examination of the problems with the encyclopedia. Wright saw the "myth" of the EB1911 being the best and greatest encyclopaedia as a testament to a successful marketing campaign which usually didn't hold up under critical examination.

Check list[edit]

The following is a checklist of things to do to make this material most useful for Wikipedia.

  1. Use for information only: Consider using the article for information only. That is, restructure and rewrite the whole article, supplementing the encyclopedia information with other sources. That isn't always worth the effort, so the following are some points to keep in mind when using encyclopedia material.
  2. Unreliable scanned source: Since some online versions are scanned using OCR software, there are often typographical errors or gaps in the text, especially where there are diacritical marks or Greek text, and also particularly at the end, where some material may be at the top of the succeeding article. You must copy-edit material carefully for gross errors, give it Wikipedia markup, and, as always, check the Wikipedia index for associated material and link as needed.
  3. Unreliable old information: Many facts given have been supplanted, diseases overcome, kings overthrown, empires dissolved, new materials and new uses for old materials discovered, and so forth. You should run a web search or check some other reference sources and not rely entirely on the Encyclopædia material.
  4. Obsolete formatting and wordiness: The articles are very complete and the paragraphs are very long. Almost all articles can benefit from being broken up into shorter paragraphs for online reading and most articles can be shortened without loss for modern readers. You may also want to insert subsection headers every time the subject changes. Dates should be converted from forms like 17th of June 1844 to 17 June 1844. The bibliographical notes are particularly cluttered and should be pared down to: Author date, title [p. num].
  5. Old fashioned attitudes: Many attitudes expressed are outdated, particularly with regard to race. Phrases like "the first white man" can be replaced by "the first European". Other attitudes may be prudish or too much in line with the interests of Victorian England. Many articles show academic biases (especially of historiography) that can be hard to eradicate; the material that has been modernized still often reflects the underlying methods and approaches of the original article.
  6. Names have changed: Many names have been changed as colonialism has been replaced by nationalism. Fernando Po is now Bioko. "Somali country" is now Somalia (and part of Yemen), and so forth. Many people familiar to the 1911 reader have slipped into obscurity. It is no longer sufficient to say "Lord Derby said"; he has to be identified more precisely (often if the subject is notable, a Wikipedia biography article will exist and a link can be provided like so: Lord Derby).
  7. British spelling: The presentation is British, and also designed for compactness. In accordance with Wikipedia:Manual of Style, if the topic is American it may be best to change spellings like "labour" to "labor"; if a British subject, the British English spelling is preferable. You may also want to add full stops after "Mrs" and the like. Both British and American spelling styles per se are perfectly acceptable in the Wikipedia, and so this is up to your own tastes.
  8. British biases: Articles about British subjects will exaggerate accomplishments and underplay or even ignore things that might tarnish a person's reputation.
  9. References are old: Many articles end with a string of references. Although these can be maintained, in list form, be aware that the intervening century may have produced more recent scholarship that should be given at least equal billing.
  10. Victorian prose should be checked: The prose style is Victorian and sometimes may seem somewhat stuffy to modern eyes. On the other hand, it has a much stronger point of view than the usual modern encyclopedia. You may want to change wording here and there. If the Encyclopædia makes a particularly striking judgement which is to be retained then use in-text attribution. For example

    Stanley Lane-Poole writing in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica stated that "Burton had not the charm of style or imagination which gives immortality to a book of travel".<ref>{{EB1911|inline=1|first=Stanley |last=Lane-Poole |wstitle=Burton, Sir Richard Francis|volume=4|page=865}}</ref>

Project pages[edit]

List project subpages here

See also[edit]