The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia is one of the largest encyclopedic dictionaries of the English language. In its day it was compared favorably with the Oxford English Dictionary and frequently consulted for more factual information than would normally be the case for a dictionary.
The Century Dictionary is based on The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language , edited by Rev. John Ogilvie (1797–1867) and published by W. G. Blackie and Co. of Scotland, 1847–1850, which in turn is an expansion of the 1841 second edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary . In 1882 The Century Company of New York bought the American rights to The Imperial Dictionary from Blackie and Son.
The Century Dictionary was admired for the quality of its entries, the craftsmanship in its design, typography, and binding, and its excellent illustrations. It has been used as an information source for the makers of many later dictionaries, including editors of the Oxford English Dictionary , who cited it over 2,000 times in the first edition. In 1913, a Ph.D. dissertation on “American Dictionaries” concluded its 14-page chapter on the Century Dictionary with the assessment that the work “far surpasses anything in American lexicography”.