Encyclopédie

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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, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. As of 1750 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 title page was amended as D'Alembert acquired more titles.

The Encyclopédie was an innovative encyclopedia in several respects. Among other things, it was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many named contributors, and it was the first general encyclopedia to lavish attention on the mechanical arts. 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]

Contents

Origins

The Encyclopédie was originally conceived as a French translation of Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia (1728).[2] In 1743, the translation was entrusted by the Parisian book publisher André Le Breton to John Mills, an English resident in France. In May 1745, Le Breton announced the work as available for sale, but to his dismay, Mills had not done the work he was commissioned to do; in fact, he could barely read and write French and did not even own a copy of Cyclopaedia. Furious at having been swindled, Le Breton beat Mills with a cane. Mills sued for assault, but Le Breton was acquitted in court as being justified.[3] For his new editor, Le Breton settled on the mathematician Jean Paul de Gua de Malves. Among those hired by Malves were the young Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, Jean le Rond d'Alembert, and Denis Diderot. Within thirteen months, in August 1747, Gua de Malves was fired for being an ineffective 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.

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