Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon

The Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste ("Great Complete Encyclopaedia of all Sciences and Arts") is a 68-volume German encyclopedia published by Johann Heinrich Zedler between 1732 and 1754. It was the first encyclopaedia to include biographies of living people.


The bookseller and publisher Zedler published this book in Leipzig under the full name "Great Complete Encyclopaedia of all Sciences and Arts which so far have been invented and improved by human mind and wit: Including the geographical and political description of the whole world according to all monarchies, empires, kingdoms, principalities, republics, free sovereignties, countries, towns, sea harbours, fortresses, castles, areas, authorities, monasteries, mountains, passes, woods, seas, lakes ... and also a detailed historical and genealogical description of the world's brightest and most famous family lines, the life and deeds of the emperors, kings, electors and princes, great heroes, ministers of state, war leaders... ; equally about all policies of state, war and law and budgetary business of the nobility and the bourgeois, merchants, traders, arts".

Zedler himself called his encyclopaedia "Zedler's Encyclopaedia" (Zedlersches Lexikon).


Zedler's encyclopaedia was the first which was worked on by editors who were specialists, and which was not named after the author or the editor, but instead after the publishing house. The main editors were Jacob August Franckenstein (volumes 1-2), Paul Daniel Longolius (volumes 3-18), and Carl Günther Ludovici (volumes 19-64 and supplements).

Nothing certain is known about the individual authors of the encyclopaedia; they may have included Johann Christoph Gottsched, Johann Mencke, and Johann Rother.


The encyclopaedia was the first in the German language and at the time was said to be the largest printed encyclopaedia in the western hemisphere. It was first printed in about 12 volumes, later it extended to 24; its final printing was in 64 volumes plus four supplements, with about 750,000 articles on 62,571 pages. Ludovici had even been intended to write a further four supplements.

The volumes were all printed in the cellars of Halle Orphanage, not far from Leipzig. This printshop belonged to August Hermann Francke's Halle Foundation. Later, between 1961 and 1964, the book was republished in Graz, Austria.


Gu Zhengxiang: "Zum China-Bild des Zedlerschen Lexikons: Bibliographie der in seinen China-Artikeln besprochenen oder als Quellen genannten Werke", in: Suevica. Beiträge zur schwäbischen Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte 9 (2001/2002). Stuttgart: Heinz, 2004 [2005], pp. 477-506, ISBN 3-88099-428-5.

Zedler's encyclopaedia online

The Bavarian State Library's digitisation centre in Munich (Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum, MDZ) digitised the encyclopaedia completely, including the three supplements, in the form of images and PDF files. The 68 volumes have an index and readers can browse through the pages.

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