The Alphabet

This print originates from Volume One of the 1823 Sixth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. The Britannica was the idea of Colin Macfarquhar, a bookseller and printer, and Andrew Bell, an engraver, both of Edinburgh. They conceived of the Britannica as a conservative reaction to the French Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot (published 1751–1766), which was widely viewed as heretical. Ironically, the Encyclopédie had begun as a French translation of the popular English encyclopedia, Cyclopaedia published by Ephraim Chambers in 1728. Although later editions of Chambers' Cyclopaedia were still popular, and despite the commercial failure of other English encyclopedias, Macfarquhar and Bell were inspired by the intellectual ferment of the Scottish Enlightenment and thought the time ripe for a new encyclopedia "compiled upon a new plan".

The first edition was reprinted in London, with slight variants on the title page and a different preface, by Edward and Charles Dilly in 1773 and by John Donaldson in 1775. By the time the Sixth Edition was published in 1823, the Britannica had been sold to Archibald Constable.

This engraving was produced by W. Train and measures 10.5 inches by 8.25 inches. It features "Alphabeta Antiqua" and "Alphabeta Antiquissima," various forms of common and uncommon letters of antiquity. There is some discoloration at the top and bottom edges, but the print is generally intact. If present, I will include any text from the volume that pertains to the print. The Britannica's title page image is not included with this listing and is for demonstration purposes only.