The Century Dictionary and Cyclopaedia, edited by William Dwight Whitney and Benjamin E. Smith, comprises twelve volumes, including over 500,000 defined terms, and two volumes of concise encyclopedic entries. The Century Dictionary contains full, accurate, and clear definitions, and its many supporting quotations are chosen to illustrate, where helpful, the typical uses of a word or its specific sense. Whitney, who is still regarded as the greatest American linguist of his time, gathered together a remarkable staff of general and specialist editors, that included many luminaries of American scholarship, to compile this beautiful dictionary.
The past five years have witnessed a remarkable event: the digital rebirth of one of the greatest general reference works in the English language. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopaedia, edited by William Dwight Whitney and Benjamin E. Smith, was originally published to broad acclaim by the Century Company of New York between 1889 and 1910. It eventually comprised twelve volumes, including over 500,000 defined terms, and supplemented with two volumes of concise encyclopedic entries. In size and scholarship, its only rival was the New English Dictionary (now known as the Oxford English Dictionary), although it avoided the latter's chiefly philological emphasis in favor of an orientation toward the practical needs of general users. The Century Dictionary's chief emphasis was on full, accurate, and clear definitions, and its many supporting quotations were chosen not so much to set out historical changes in form as to illustrate, where helpful, the typical uses of a word, or a particular sense. Whitney, who is still regarded as the greatest American linguist of his time, gathered together a remarkable staff of general and specialist editors, which included many luminaries of American scholarship. This allowed The Century Dictionary to define a wider range of scientific and technical vocabulary than was possible in a philological work like the original OED. Whitney and Smith also oriented their work towards American English; that is, they offered American pronunciations, gave preference to American spelling forms, and paid particular attention to words of American origin. The Century Company, the publisher of a number of highly respected illustrated periodicals such as The Century Magazine, made its considerable pool of artistic talent available to the dictionary, as well as the expertise of its chief printer, Theodore Low De Vinne. The result was that The Century Dictionary, in addition to being a work of consummate scholarship, was a beautiful dictionary. Indeed, with its elegant layouts and thousands of gorgeous woodcuts, it is arguably the most beautiful dictionary ever printed.
This set includes the Dictionary itself over eight volumes, two supplementary volumes of names, and two supplementary volumes of additional words. Please note that this set does not include an atlas volume.