display | more...
Diderot's Encyclopédie had a lot more in common with everything than say, the Encyclopedia Brittanica. It aimed to be a comprehensive catalog of every piece of human knowledge. In addition to what we'd consider to be traditional entries, it's filled with etchings of insects and animals from around the world, weapons, things like the methodology of manufacturing candles, and examples of alphabets from various languages.

Published in 28 folio sized volumes between 1751 and 1775, the Encyclopédie (like many other books) was banned in France upon its publication because it was, like Rousseau's Social Contract considered too dangerous for public consumption. Also like the Social Contract, it's cited (probably incorrectly) as a cause of the French Revolution. The Encyclopédie at the time sold for something like the equivilent of several hundred thousand dollars.

There are a number of copies of the Encyclopédie still in existance, including one in the special collections library of Dartmouth College that I was lucky enough to thumb through (after washing my hands thoroughly) as part of a history class.

Although the enlightened principles of the Encyclopédie are obvious to anyone who peruses the text, it's atheism is a bit more subtle... but very real.

For example, under the entry for Anthropophagy (slick word for cannibalism) there is a reference to the entry on Transubstantiation (slick word for the Catholic ritual of eating a cracker which supposedly is a small piece of Christ's body).  Get it? Cannibalism...

I'm sure the authority figures looked right over that one, and those who were enlightened enough to understand had quite a chuckle.

L'Encylopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts, et des Métiers, "Encyclopedia or Reasoned Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts," or L'Encyclopédie for short.

Most facts and ideas regarding this wonderful effort have already been noded, however it's interesting to note a few other things. What is also remarkable about it is the synergy of many intellectuals, writers and scientists, collaborating even though they usually disagreed strongly with each other. L'Encyclopédie gives a sampling of most of the (often conflicting) trends and beliefs of 17th century French philosophy. While they often sparred with words elsewhere, most thinkers of this period united toward the common goal that was the Encyclopédie, a practically never before seen effort not only to catalog but to organize as much of the human knowledge as they could -- not unlike E2.

Another thing that many mention about the Encyclopédie is its driving role in the enlightenment, and therefore in the American and French revolutions, in introducing the idea that there are human rights and they should be proclaimed, etc. Other common themes throughout the Encyclopédie are : refusal of authoritarianism in science, the belief in rationality, distrust of any and all religions, especially Christianity.

And finally, for your enlightenment, here are the names of the main collaborators of the Encyclopédie and their areas of expertise, besides the two editors, Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert :

P.S. : Since it's in the public domain and is, for all intents and purposes, E2's ancestor, wouldn't it be cool if somebody autonoded l'Encyclopédie?

Research credits go to Google, Wikipedia, and a couple bad philosophy books I own.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.