Marshall McLuhan in the Encyclopedia Britannica


Encyclopædia Britannica - First Edition

The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, printed in Edinburgh, Scotland

The venerable Encyclopedia Britannica, first published 244 years ago, has announced that it’s ceasing publication of its print edition and will focus on its online digital edition. The New York Times writes that:-

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.
In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.

For one week, starting today, access to the online edition is available for free. Go to . The Britannica website follows the WSJ model – you can read the first few paragraphs of any article for free but the full content is only available to subscribers. If you haven’t explored Britannica earlier because of the pay-wall, now be a good time as they have opened the entire archive to non-subscribers for the full week.

Here is its entry on Marshall McLuhan:-


Marshall McLuhan, in full Herbert Marshall McLuhan   (born July 21, 1911, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada—died Dec. 31, 1980, Toronto), Canadian communications theorist and educator, whose aphorism “the medium is the message” summarized his view of the potent influence of television, computers, and other electronic disseminators of information in shaping styles of thinking and thought, whether in sociology, art, science, or religion. He regarded the printed book as an institution fated to disappear.

McLuhan was associated with the University of Toronto from 1946 until 1979. He became full professor of English literature there in 1952 and was made director of the university’s Centre for Culture and Technology in 1963. He was also a popular lecturer.

In 1962 McLuhan published The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, the first of several books in which he examined communications and society. His other works include The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951), Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (with Quentin Fiore; 1967), From Cliché to Archetype (with Wilfred Watson; 1970), and City as Classroom (with Kathryn Hutchon and Eric McLuhan; 1977). McLuhan’s critical view of 20th-century society’s self-transformation made him one of the popular prophetic voices of his time.


As Mark Stahlman points out in his comment for this posting, that brief introduction to Marshall McLuhan in the EB, perhaps suggests why its print edition became less desirable, compared to similar freely accessible information available on the Internet. Compare the length and substance of EB’s coverage of McLuhan to Wikipedia’s treatment of him here: . It’s obvious which encyclopedia wins hands down……..AlexK 

And here’s a 1992 TV commercial for Encyclopedia Britannica from pre-Internet days: 

2 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan in the Encyclopedia Britannica”

  1. 1 Mark Stahlman


    Remarkable! No wonder EB has been wiped out by Wikipedia! There is really nothing helpful about McLuhan in this article and, apparently, no one with any knowledge of the man was involved in writing it. My guess is that no one read it either, since it took until 2010 to get the title of “The Medium is the Massage” right!

    Mark Stahlman
    Brooklyn NY

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