Encyclopaedia Britannia Ninth Edition

184mm h x 243mm w

The ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannia, sometimes called the 'Scholar's Edition', was published by A&C Black from 1875 to 1889 in 24 volumes plus one index volume; Essex was in volume 8, published in 1878. The maps were supplied by J Bartholomew.

The Bartholomew maps were 165mm x 219mm, and at a scale of about 1:480,000; half the pirate copies were the same, but half were larger (but with no added details).

The 9th edition was very successful in Britain, and A&C Black authorized two American firms Charles Scribner and Little, Brown & Company, to distribute the Encyclopaedia in the United States. Whilst some thousands of the official copies were sold in the UK and in the USA, several hundred thousand pirated copies were also sold in the USA, which still did not have copyright laws protecting foreign publications.

One of the first pirates was Joseph Stoddart of Philadelphia, who employed a spy in the Britannica's own printshop, Neill and Company, in Edinburgh. The spy would steal the proofreader's copies and send them by fastest mail to the United States, allowing Stoddart to publish his version simultaneously with the Britannica and at nearly half the price ($5 versus $9 per volume).

The maps look just the same as in the original A&C Black original issue, except the "J Bartholomew" imprint removed. They are, however, larger: now 190mm x 243mm, and hence 1:395,000.

Encyclopaedia Britannia 1878

Another successful pirate was Henry G. Allen, who developed a photographic reproduction method for the Britannica and charged only half as much as Stoddart ($2.50 per volume). The map has no "Encyclopaedia" title across the base, no Divisions or county boundary linings and no list of Divisions - but does have a rather muzzy "J Bartholomew" in the bottom right corner. The maps are back to the original Bartholomew size and scale (1:440,000).

Encyclopaedia Britannia by Allen Encyclopaedia Britannia by Allen bottom right corner

To the right is another pirated copy, this time by Maxwell Sommerville's version of 1891. The map has no "Encyclopaedia" title across the base, no Divisions or county boundary lining and no publisher, but it does have the three 1868-85 Divisions listed. In size it is the same as the Stoddart, and at its scale (1:395,000).

By 1891 it was very nearly time for the later map that was used in the authorised UK version in 1892 (see below) - but this is the old map.

Encyclopaedia Britannia 1891

To the right is yet another pirated copy, this time by the RS Peale Company. The map has no "Encyclopaedia" title across the base, no Divisions or county boundary lining, no list of Divisions and no publisher. It is the same small size as the original Bartholomew map, and its scale (1:440,000).

This one was published in 1892, by which time the later map was available in the authorised UK version (see below) - but this is the old map.

Encyclopaedia Britannia 1892

Other alleged pirates of the 9th edition first issue included Funk and Wanamaker of the Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia. In 1890, James Clarke published the Americanized Encyclopaedia


Britannica, Revised and Amended, but in 1896 Scribner's obtained court orders to shut down the pirate operations, whose printing plates were melted down as part of the enforcement.

In the UK W & AK Johnston took over the Encyclopaedia Britannia and republished it in 1892 with updated maps - and a change of colour from yellow to orange.

As the Parliamentary Divisions changed in 1885 (from 3 to 8 excluding the borough towns), the 1892 maps show no Parliamentary or any other Divisions within the county. It is covered in a very flat orange colour wash with an unnecessarily bright edge-colour. Around the edges are "Vol VIII", "Plate VI", "Page 552", "Encyclopaedia Britannica Ninth Edition" and "W & AK Johnston".

Encyclopaedia Britannia 1892

The upshot of all this is that there are a great many "Encyclopaedia Britannica" maps available to buy (with or without that name across

the base), and they do all look very similar. The differences are:

Item Original 1878 Stoddart      
Allen (pirate) Sommerville
Peale (pirate) Johnston 1892
Vol VIII / Essex / Plate VI Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bottom left corner Page 552
Encyclopaedia Britannica Ninth Edition Yes Yes - - - Yes
Bottom right corner J Bartholomew J Bartholomew
W & AK Johnston
Division boundaries marked Yes Yes - - - -
Division names listed Yes Yes - Yes - -
Colour Pale yellow/
Pale yellow Yellow Yellow Bright Yellow Orange
Size 165 x 219mm 190 x 243mm 164 x 218mm 189 x 245mm 163 x 218mm 184 x 243mm
© Peter Walker 2014