“The Canadian Encyclopedia is an overwhelming accomplishment. We can learn so much from you.” – Gong Li, president of the Chinese Encyclopedia.
If the Chinese did not compile the first encyclopedia, as they did by some accounts, they did create the biggest. The 18th-century Siku Quanshu, a at is 2.3 million pages long, consists of over 36,000 volumes, required 300 editors and more than 4000 scribes, and has been described as “probably the most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world.” Our Canadian Encyclopedia is so much younger (and smaller!) to it was a great honour for us to host a delegation from the current, 93-volume Chinese Encyclopedia.
“Significant: expressive, suggestive, with unstated or secret sense, inviting attention; noteworthy, of considerable amount or effect or importance”
- Oxford English Dictionary
One of the words that recurs in the making of reference works is “significance.” While the word “encyclopedia” either means or implies “all the knowledge in the world,” and one might call a Canadian encyclopedia “everything you wanted to know about Canada,” of course this was never literally possible. So when you make a reference work you have to make choices and hope that in the final product at least you represent “all the knowledge,” or represent the totality of the given subject, be it baseball or Canada.