“Compendium of all available knowledge”


If you are interested in Wikipedia, you may know the motto of Jimmy Wales:

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.

I was always afraid that this phrase supports misunderstandings about Wikipedia. Not all human knowledge is suitable for Wikipedia, like the name of your pet. But now I found out that Jimmy’s phrase is absolutely nothing uncommon for an encyclopedia. Take Encyclopaedia Britannica, for example (15th ed., vol. 18, p. 258):

Today, most people think of an encyclopedia as a multivolume compendium of all available knowledge.

Or Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (19th ed., vol 6, p. 451):

In der Neuzeit wird der Versuch unternommen, die Gesamtheit menschlichen Wissens in einem neuen, dem gewandelten Weltbild entsprechenden Zusammenhang […] darzustellen. / (My translation:) In the Modern Age, one tried to present […] the total of human knowledge in a new context, according to the changed conception of the world.

So if Jimmy’s phrase is not mistakable, it is at least not so inventive. At the occasion of the 10th anniversary, maybe the Wikipedians want to find (collaboratively) a new,and shorter, slogan.

5 thoughts on ““Compendium of all available knowledge”

  1. Except that is the vision for the Wikimedia Foundation.

    The vision for Wikipedia is more limited – to make the best encyclopedia we can.

    All the other Wikimedia projects (including the ones they are still just thinking about) are about providing all those other bits of human knowledge which don’t fit in an encyclopedia.

  2. In my book I talk about the tradition in which WP stands, for example, this from a century ago: “The new (IIth) Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is a new book containing a fresh, complete survey of all human knowledge and achievement.”.

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