Warren Preece, 85; Encyclopaedia Britannica editor

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Warren E. Preece, 85, a former editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica who revamped the design of the reference work in the 1970s, died Wednesday in Philadelphia of heart failure, according to the New York Times.

According to a 1974 Time magazine article, the editors at Britannica decided that “an alphabetical collection of unrelated articles -- the traditional Britannica format since the first edition in 1771 -- was no longer adequate in an era of explosive growth in human knowledge.”

The encyclopedia’s 15th edition, known as Britannica 3, was split into three parts. The first part, called the Propaedia, was a one-volume outline that, according to the Times obituary, served as a “guide to the rest of the encyclopedia.”

The second part, in 10 volumes, was the Micropaedia, designed for quick reference. The third part, the 19-volume Macropaedia, was for in-depth knowledge.


A native of Norwalk, Conn., Preece earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth in 1943. After serving in the Army during World War II, he earned a master’s degree from Columbia University.

Before joining Britannica, Preece served as a newspaper reporter and copy editor, an English teacher and a publicist for U.S. Sen. Thomas Dodd of Connecticut.

Preece was the editor, editor in chief and general editor of Britannica from 1964 to 1975.