Encyclopædia Britannica gazetteer

The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1771, was one of the great intellectual achievements of the 18th century. The article on "Geography" (volume 2, pages 673–684) is in the main concerned with questions of maps — presenting, for example, 9 "problems" for solution using a globe or flat projection map. At the end of the article there is included, along with a series of 5 plates showing the continents and oceans, a table which we recognize today as a gazetteer (a word first used, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1693):

"The Diviſion of the Habitable Earth",
Encyclopædia Britannica, 1st ed. (1771)

The brevity, which we are neceſſarily obliged to obſerve, prevents us from taking any notice of many particulars, which are to be found in large treatiſes on this ſubject. A general account of countries, cities, rivers, mountains, &c. is given under their reſpective names, as they occur in the order of the alphabet. We ſhall therefore conclude this article with the following table, which will ſerve to give an idea of the general diviſions of the habitable earth . . . .

We have provided an image of this "gazetteer", stitched together from the three pages on which it appears in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Note the division of America, with North and South undistinguished:

The reference to Annapolis as the capital of "New Scotland" comes as a surprise — but in fact the town of Annapolis Royal was the capital of Nova Scotia from 1710 until the founding of Halifax in 1749. The Encyclopædia Britannica's information, frozen in time in 1771, was already over twenty years out of date at time of publication . . . .

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