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Bibliographic Descriptions

The documents below are bibliographic descriptions from different sources of encyclopaedia in the West, China and Japan. Information on Indian encyclopaedia is still under construction. The bibliographic descriptions apart from the usual information offer links to Online-sources and secondary literature wherever possible.

As far as the definition of encyclopaedia is concerned, please refer to the discussion in the document The Encyclopaedic Principle.


The first of these lists originated at a German-language project website by the University of Zürich. It provides descriptions of books fulfilling the criteria for encyclopaedic works from the Western tradition. The first such works are found in Ancient Rome, and there was a constant production up until the Modern Age, with a peak of new forms and levels of comprehensiveness during the Enlightenment. 


Together with school-textbooks, encyclopaedic works were an important way of transferring Western scientific learning to Asia in the 19th century. Many of these encyclopaedia reached China via Japan, where they were often first translated. This is a chronological list of encyclopaedic works from 1819 up until 1937. The list stipulates where each of these works is to be found. The holdings of the University of Heidelberg are being prepared for Online access, but there is no date of publication yet.


This third list at the moment provides descriptions of leishu 類書. The class of Chinese books traditionally called leishu is the most obvious parallel to the Western encyclopaedia and in research literature it has been referred to accordingly. Many of the leishu have been made available online, and respective links are provided. However, this list will be enlarged continuously, and it will over time also include other books from traditional China: political handbooks zhengshu 政書, administrative encylcopaedia tongshu 通書, collections of administrative material huiyao 會要 and other such classes of books.