Encyclopaedia, Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature

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Encyclopaedia, Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature

Title page from Encyclopaedia, Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, volume two, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Thomas Dobson
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Published Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas Dobson
Date 1798
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Language English
Volumes 18 volume set
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Location [[Shelf {{{shelf}}}]]
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Thomas Dobson (c.1751-1823) was born near Edinburgh, Scotland, but immigrated to the United States with his wife and three daughters in 1783. Dobson operated a thriving printing shop in Philadelphia. He printed many notable works, but his claim to fame was sealed by his publication of the first American encyclopedia.

Dobson’s Encyclopaedia was largely a copy of the third edition Encyclopaedia Britannica, which had been published the year before, but Dobson sought to dispel what he perceived to be a British bias. The most notable differences were in regards to American geography and history, such as the surrender of the British in the American Revolution.[1] The encyclopedia was a hit amongst American scholars. Purchasers of the work included famous leaders, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.[2]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "American Encyclopedia. 18.v. 4to." and kept by Thomas Jefferson. He later sold a copy to the Library of Congress.[3] Both George Wythe's Library[4] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[5] suggests the copy Jefferson sold may have been Wythe's copy. Brown also notes a second copy of this set owned by Jefferson and sold by his grandson, Francis Eppes in 1873.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in original full calf with black and red spine compartments, marbled pastedowns and ffp's. This set bears the owner's signature of Jonah Calef. Purchased from Charles Thomas Bookseller.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Google Books


  1. Robert Arner, Dobson’s Encyclopaedia: The Publisher, Text, and Publication of America’s First Britannica, 1789-1803 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991).
  2. James M. Wells, The Circle of Knowledge: Encyclopaedias Past and Present (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1968).
  3. E. Millicent Sowerby, ""Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson 2nd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 5:150-151 (no.4891).
  4. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013, http://www.librarything.com/profile/GeorgeWythe
  5. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433