Education: Rule, Britannica

One of education's better ironies is that the broad, stately river of classified knowledge named Encyclopaedia Britannica began 190 years ago in a clear, sparkling rill of Scotch whisky. The tale of the encyclopedia's turbulent course from the Edinburgh workshop of hard-drinking Editor William Smellie to its present serene residence at the University of Chicago is told in The Great EB (University of Chicago Press; 339 pp.; $4.95) by Herman Kogan, drama critic and books editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.

In 1768 Europe's Enlightenment was in full vigor; Denis Diderot's French Encyclopedic had just come out, and Britain was ripe for an...

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