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Chambers, Ephraim

Chambers, Ephraim (c.1680–1740). Encyclopedist, man of letters, and free thinker. Born in Kendal and apprenticed to a well-known map- and globe-maker, the publication of John Harris's Lexicon technicum (1704) gave him the idea of constructing an encyclopedia that would be a guide to universal knowledge and would be held together by an elaborate system of cross-referencing and a series of supplements on specialized topics. First published in 1728, subsequently republished in 1738, 1741, 1746, dedicated to the king, Chambers's title indicates the range of his work. Cyclopaedia: or an universal dictionary of arts and sciences; containing an explanation of the terms and an account of the things signified thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical: and the several sciences human and divine … The whole intended as a course of ancient and modern learning. Extracted from the best authors, dictionaries, memoirs, translations, … in several languages. The French translation of 1743–5 was an important influence on d'Alembert's and Diderot's Encyclopédie.

Nicholas Phillipson

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