Encyclopédie

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Denis Diderot was editor for 25 years

Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts) was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772. The full title was Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres, mis en ordre par M. Diderot de l'Académie des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, et quant à la partie mathématique, par M. d'Alembert de l'Académie royale des Sciences de Paris, de celle de Prusse et de la Société royale de Londres.

The Encyclopédie was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many people, and it was the first to include the engineering. Still, the Encyclopédie is famous above all for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article "Encyclopédie", the Encyclopédie's aim was "to change the way people think."[1]

Origins[change | edit source]

The Encyclopédie was conceived as a translation of Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia (1728).[2] In 1743, the translation was given by the Parisian book publisher André Le Breton to John Mills, an Englishman living in France. In May 1745, Le Breton announced the work as available for sale, but Mills had not done the work. Le Breton beat Mills with a cane. Mills sued for assault, but Le Breton was set free because he was justified.[3] For his new editor, Le Breton chose mathematician Jean Paul de Gua de Malves. In August 1747, Gua de Malves was fired for being a poor leader. Le Breton then hired Diderot and Jean d'Alembert as the new editors. Diderot would remain editor for the next twenty-five years, seeing the Encyclopédie through to completion.


Contributors[change | edit source]

Many of the most noted figures of the French Enlightenment contributed to the Encyclopédie, including Voltaire, Rousseau,[2] and Baron d'Holbach. The most prolific contributor wrote 17,266 articles, or about eight per day, between 1759 and 1765.

Statistics[change | edit source]

Approximate size of the Encyclopédie:

  • 17 volumes of articles, issued from 1751 to 1765
  • 11 volumes of illustrations, issued from 1762 to 1772
  • 18,000 pages of text
  • 75,000 entries
    • 44,000 main articles
    • 28,000 secondary articles
    • 2,500 illustration indices
  • 20,000,000 words in total

Print run: 4,250 copies (note: even single-volume works in the 18th Century seldom had a print run of more than 1,500 copies)

Quotes[change | edit source]

  • "If exclusive privileges were not granted, and if the financial system would not tend to concentrate wealth, there would be few great fortunes and no quick wealth. When the means of growing rich is divided between a greater number of citizens, wealth will also be more evenly distributed; extreme poverty and extreme wealth would be also rare." (Wealth article, Diderot)


References[change | edit source]

  1. Denis Diderot as quoted in Lynn Hunt, R. Po-chia Hsia, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, and Bonnie G. Smith, The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures: A Concise History: Volume II: Since 1340, Second Edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007), 611.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bryan Magee. The Story of Philosophy. DK Publishing, Inc., New York: 1998. page 124
  3. Philipp Blom (2005). Enlightening the World. pp. 35–37

Other websites[change | edit source]