Dear Editor:

Jeannette De Wyze’s generally excellent article on how Encyclopaedia Britannica is coming to grips with the digital revolution [June 16] perpetuates a popular misconception that Mortimer Adler devised a “radical new structure” for EB’s historic 1974 15th edition.

It would be more accurate to say he adapted it from another source.

At that time I was the copywriter on Britannica educational products for Buchen Advertising, the agency responsible for EB advertising to the academic community. According to EB lore, Dr. Adler–already celebrated for many other contributions, including his work with Robert M. Hutchins on Great Books of the Western World–created the three-in-one Propaedia/Micropaedia/Macropaedia Britannica structure.

However, a “triune” format was previously employed by the respected French multi-volume reference work, Encyclopaedia Universalis, whose three components were entitled “Index/Symposium/Corpus.” (Did the French publisher originate this concept? Or adapt it from an even earlier source? I don’t know.)

Somewhere, I suspect, there is a French “Unknown Scholar” who may never receive the credit due for what was largely a remarkable innovation in its day.

Of course, the French have an expression that covers this: “C’est la vie.”

Robert Luchs

E. Chestnut