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February 4, 2000

Encyclopedia of New York will be an 'informational Erie Canal'

Syracuse University Press has launched an ambitious effort to produce The Encylopedia of New York State-the first reference work of its kind to be published in more than 50 years.

The publishers say their purpose is to produce an "informational Erie Canal," to bind the state together and show the linkages among all regions and all peoples of the state. Publication is scheduled for 2002.

Despite New York's central role in American history and in the nation's cultural and economic life, there are few reference works with authoritative information about the state-and none with the breadth of coverage planned for this encyclopedia.

The one-volume print edition of the encyclopedia will consist of some 1,500 pages, with some 4,000 articles, 500 illustrations, 120 maps and 140 tables. An electronic edition will be even more extensive.

A team of editors has been at work on the project for more than a year. The publisher expects to recruit as many as 500 scholars and other contributors to write articles pertaining to their specific areas of expertise.

Syracuse University Press currently has more than 125 books in print, and has a 55-year tradition of producing award-winning books reflecting the diversity of New York State's history, art and culture.

The encyclopedia will include extensive coverage of New York's economic history and business community. Syracuse University Press is asking businesses statewide for information that would be of value in the project, and also for sponsorships that will help offset the cost.

The project was planned from the outset as a public-private partnership.

State funding has been provided through the leadership of Sen. John A. DeFrancisco of Syracuse, and the project is housed by the state Education Department at the Cultural Education Center in Albany.

Twelve companies and foundations-headed by the GE Fund and the Gifford Foundation-have already provided financial support. Additional private backing is needed to keep the cover price in an affordable range, and to make the book available to a wide range of schools and libraries.

All 780 public libraries in the state will receive a free copy of the encyclopedia as a gift from the state. But an important objective of the publishers is to secure funding to place the work in schools, as well. The electronic edition of the work will have interactive features designed for classroom use, and Syracuse University Press is also producing a teacher's manual for both print and electronic formats.

For information, call 315/443-5535, or visit http://encyclopediaNYS.syr.edu.2220.