Term used to designate an abridgment of human knowledge in general or a considerable department thereof, treated from a uniform point of view, or in a systematized summary. The technical use of the word dates only from the 16th century, although encyclopedic treatment of human science reaches back to antiquity. Systematic encyclopedias are divided into two classes:
(1) those which present all branches of knowledge, arranged uniformly and organically according to some fixed system of connection;

(2) the lexicographical encyclopedias, which treat of the same matter arranged alphabetically. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was the first in ancient times to attempt a summary of human knowledge in encyclopedic form.
The most important compilers in the Christian era were Isidore of Seville (c.560-636), Suidas (born c.950), and Vincent of Beauvais (died c.1264). Among works of this nature founded on philosophy and the interrelation of sciences were: One of the most scientific of the German works is the Allgemeine Encykloplidie der Wissenschaften und Kunste (1813-1850), of Ersch, Hufeland, Gruber, Meier, Brockhaus, Muller, and Hoffmann.

The encyclopedias devoted to theology have reached a high degree of merit. The most important Catholic works are: Two famous Catholic biblical encyclopedias are: Of general encyclopedias under Catholic redaction there are: "Konversations-lexikon" (1902-1922), by Herder; and Universal Knowledge (1927), by Pace, Pallen, Shahan, Walsh, and Wynne. The 19th century saw the publication of various encyclopedias dealing with such varied topics as philology, jurisprudence, theology, pedagogy, forestry, physics, chemistry, history, geography, Christian archaeology, hagiography, sociology, medicine, biography, etc. At the present time nearly every country has a representative encyclopedia, in addition to various technical works of the same nature.

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