This chapter presents a historical view of the encyclopedia, beginning with Wikipedia. Despite its reputation of being an unreliable source in comparison to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia exercises a peculiar fascination over readers. Because Wikipedia relies on the consensus of a multitude of contributors, there is no guarantee of both accuracy as well as the maintenance of consensus itself. The Introduction describes the similar and differing aspects of the pre- and postmodern encyclopedism. Wikipedia though certainly different from the encyclopedias of the modern period, presents a certain similarity to the encyclopedism of Western Europe during the period commonly known as scholastic (ca. 110–ca. 1400). This chapter presents a brief history of how encyclopedism came to be what it is today, and introduces the goal and tasks that the book aims to study.
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