In this week's edition of Czech Science we look at a new encyclopaedia that has just been published. In 2000 and 2001 the Euromedia Group publishing house put out a ten-volume encyclopaedia called Universum, which contained 150,000 entries and was awarded in the Dictionary of the Year contest the following year. Last autumn a multimedia version of the encyclopaedia was published and was awarded the main prize in the same contest. A four-tome version followed and finally, last week a single-volume, up-to-date edition of Universum came out, containing around 40,000 entries.
The head of the Czech Academy of Sciences Helena Illnerova says that young people in particular may appreciate such an easy-to-handle source of information.
"Such a book cannot contain everything and it cannot go into too much depth. But I believe it is very useful for looking up general information and for a general awareness of things we should often know if only we were more educated."
Helena Illnerova says that thanks to her profession she has the chance to consult an expert when she needs to find out something. She also says that when she's looking for a certain type of information, nothing beats the monumental forty-volume Ottuv slovnik naucny or Otto's Encyclopaedia, first published between 1888 and 1908.
Antonin Koci from the Euromedia Group publishers was responsible for putting together the Universum encyclopaedia. He agrees that Otto's encyclopaedia is hard to match but, obviously, it is outdated in many respects.
"I like and respect Otto's Encyclopaedia. But out of the 40,000 entries in the new Universum Encyclopaedia there are 20,000 entries which relate to the time after Otto's Encyclopaedia was published."
More than 400 authors contributed to the Universum encyclopaedia. They were mostly members of the Czech Academy of Sciences and university teachers. Last month, two of the authors, doctor Vratislav Schreiber and economist Frantisek Vencovsky, were awarded an order of merit for their contribution to Czech science by President Vaclav Klaus.
The publishers are not disguising the fact that commercial success of the encyclopaedia is important. The timing of its publishing is just right for the Christmas market. But at the same time, under the auspices of the Czech Conference of Rectors, the publishing house is presenting thirty Czech universities with the ten-volume edition of Universum complete with a CD ROM and 300 high schools with the four-volume version of the encyclopaedia.
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