An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (also spelled encyclopædia, see spelling differences) is a type of reference work or compendium holding a comprehensive summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries, which are usually arranged alphabetically by article name. Encyclopedia entries are longer and more detailed than those in most dictionaries. Generally speaking, unlike dictionary entries which focus on linguistic information about words, encyclopedia articles focus on factual information concerning the subject for which the article is named.
Encyclopedias have existed for around 2,000 years; the oldest still in existence, Naturalis Historia, was written starting in ca. AD 77 by Pliny the Elder and was not fully revised at the time of his death in AD 79. The modern encyclopedia evolved out of dictionaries around the 17th century. Historically, some encyclopedias were contained in one volume, whereas others, such as the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Enciclopedia Italiana (62 volumes, 56,000 pages) or the world’s largest, Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana (118 volumes, 105,000 pages), became huge multi-volume works. Some modern encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, are often electronic and freely available.
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