Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences compiled upon a New Plan. In which the Different Sciences and Arts are digested into Distinct Treaties or Systems; and the Various Technical Terms, &c. are explained as they occur in the Order of the Alphabet... by a Society of Gentlemen in Scotland. Edinburgh: for A. Bell and C. Macfarquhar, 1771.
3 volumes, 4o (257 x 200 mm). Half-titles. 160 engraved plates (one folding, some printed on both sides of the leaf), 3 folding chemistry tables and one folding Grammatical table in volume 2 (some plate-marks trimmed, some offsetting, a few pale stains and some rust holes). (Preliminaries mildly tape-stained from the inner margin, minor marginal worming to early leaves of volume one, a few short marginal tears, occasional spotting.) Contemporary calf (rebacked to style preserving contemporary lettering-pieces); cloth slipcase. Provenance: W.D. (contemporary initials first volume); N.E. Stock (19th-century signatures); Robert S. Dunham (signatures dated 1956; his sale Sotheby's New York, 11 December 1993, lot 667).
"THE MOST FAMOUS OF ALL ENCYCLOPAEDIAS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE" (PMM)
FIRST EDITION, probably compiled by the editor and antiquarian William Smellie (1740-1795), the engraver Andrew Bell (1726-1809), and the printer Colin Macfarquhar (died 1793). Indebted to John Harris's Lexicon Technicum, 1704 (see lot 165) and Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopedia, 1728, but diverging from their alphabetical models by arranging entries under subject matter: "Whoever has had occasion to consult Chambers, Owen, &c. or even the voluminous French Encyclopedie, will have discovered the folly of attempting to communicate science under the various technical terms arranged in an alphabetical order. Such an attempt is repugnant to the very idea of science, which is a connected series of conclusions deduced from self-evident or previously discovered principles." Collison pp. 138-55; Hozeau & Lancaster 9376 (errors); PMM 218. (3)