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The Encyclopaedia as a Form of the Book

Schopflin, KAM; (2014) The Encyclopaedia as a Form of the Book. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The field of book history is concerned with exploring the physical form of the book and the circumstances of its creation and reception, in order to gain insight into the societies and industries which produced and consumed it. Hitherto, comparatively little attention has been given to the encyclopaedia as a generic form of the book. The purpose of this thesis is to apply the research approaches taken in book history to the encyclopaedia in order to define it as a type of book. Original research was undertaken in three parts: review literature was analysed to identify the encyclopaedia’s functional attributes, a selection of titles were examined to discern their physical features and surveys and interviews were carried out in order to gather the opinions of the main participants in its communications circuit. Once a definition was formed, it was applied to online forms of encyclopaedia to consider whether the encyclopaedia has a generic signature which carries beyond the material form of the book. The findings show that the encyclopaedia has a distinct identity, both in terms of the characteristics for which it is valued, and its physical components. This identity distinguishes it not just from familiar, much-studied forms of the book such as the novel, but also from other reference books such as dictionaries. The findings also demonstrate that many of these characteristics are present in the online forms of the encyclopaedia, even where technology might have made them unnecessary or irrelevant. While the definition formulated of the encyclopaedia is not a challenging one, it demonstrates that it is possible to formulate a toolkit for the identification of literary forms, and to apply it to new forms of book types, such as online versions. Refinement of this toolkit and application to other forms of the book could reveal new insights into the nature of different literary genres and their relationships to each other and to their readers’ expectations.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Encyclopaedia as a Form of the Book
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1418936
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