In the preface to this impressive book, Richard Yeo quotes David Brewster’s words to the co-editor of his eighteen-volume Edinburgh Encyclopaedia as a warning to himself to make his task manageable. In so doing, he restricts his primary purpose to revealing and analysing “the assumptions behind the encyclopaedic project” and to considering “how these influenced coverage and format”. What he explicitly eschews — with eyes no doubt to Robert Darnton’s publishing history of the Encyclopédie — is the task of giving a “publishing history or a study of readership”. Yeo nevertheless expresses a hope that his study will be a useful contribution to the “significant intersection between history of science and the history of the book” (p. xvi). That hope is well founded, and he makes the case repeatedly for the importance of taking seriously the practices of authorship, readership, and publishing. Yet there are significant respects in which his primary purpose would have been more fully accomplished had he paid more attention to these issues
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