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Anyone interested in the creation of the Encyclopédie and the stuggles to get it published, even in the bowdlerized version in which it eventually appeared, and the censorship issues, should look into Encyclopaedia Brittanica 1911: 'Encyclopedia'. Wetman 03:00, 14 Jan 2004 (UTC)


I think the title of the book should be translated into English. Here's my attempt, feel free to pull it apart.  :)

L’Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. (by the way, in the picture there's no l' on encyclopédie)

"[The] Encyclopedia, or Reasoned Dictionary of the Sciences, the Arts and Professions [or Trades]" - I'm avoiding using Crafts because it would sound too much like the invariable phrase arts and crafts, somebody with a detailed knowledge of the contents could probably pick the best word.

Or, it might sound more natural (especially to modern ears) to say
"[The] Encyclopedia, or Reasoned Dictionary of Science, Art and Trade [or Professions]", although this does change the meaning a little.

And for the long title:
...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.

..."by a Society of Men of Letters, Compiled [or Edited] by Monsieur Diderot of the Learned Society of the Sciences and [Great] Literature of Prussia, and as regards the Field of Mathematics, by Monsieur d'Alembert of the Royal Societies of the Sciences of Paris and Prussia, and the Royal Society of London."

(some of the "of"s could probably be changed to "in"s, if you prefer)

Fabiform 07:23, 30 Jan 2004 (UTC)

A translation which captures the meaning is what it needs (and now has), rather than a literal translation. there isn't a precise word in English, but raisonné in this context is best translated as systematic and comprehensive, and in this case usually done as systematic. flux.books 19:08, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

Structure of knowledge[edit]

Robert Darton makes an interesting argument that a lot of the Encyclopedia's controversy stemmed not from its sly irreligion but in its radical taxonomy of knowledge which places religion as a subdivision of philosophy (and not a source of knowledge in and of itself). Maybe I'll try to render a copy of the trees of Diderot and D'Alambart and link to them from this article (as well as synthesize some of Darton's paper into this entry). Oh, more things to-do... :) --Fastfission 03:09, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)----

That sounds like a theory worth investigating. What paper specifically is that, I'd like to have a look at it. I actually considered adding the "tree of knowledge" when I first started researching the topic, but I didn't see any specific need. That has obviously changed, I'll take a look at adding it. - snoyes 04:24, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I've added the image, along with a short paragraph on the issue. Hopefully fertile ground for a more detailed description. - snoyes 03:02, 9 Feb 2004 (UTC)

In particular I'm thinking of Robert Darnton, Epistemological angst: From encyclopedism to advertising,, in Tore Fraengsmyr, ed., The structure of knowledge: Classifications of Science and Learning Since the Renaissance, Berkeley Papers in the History of Science, 19 (Office for History of Science and Technology: Berkeley, 2001). I helped produce the volume a few years ago which is why I know about it -- it's an excellent article all around, with lots of fantastic information on the sales of the encyclopedia and its eventual commercialization (featuring my favorite Diderot quote, "Go fuck yourself, you and your book; I don't want to work on it anymore."). Anyway I've got an English translation of the Tree of Diderot and d'Alembert, as well as the trees of Bacon and Ephraime Chambers as well (which could make for a nice rounded-out Trees of Knowledge entry). It would not be hard to recreate the trees in some sort of HTML once I figure out a good way to represent them... at the very least I could get the scans of the English translations uploaded this week. --Fastfission 21:18, 9 Feb 2004 (UTC)

A tree of knowledge article sounds like an excellent idea. As you can see, the majority of entries on the best image I could find of the Encyclopédie's tree of knowledge are not intelligible. An image is not really the best medium for the tree. - snoyes 22:28, 9 Feb 2004 (UTC)

An analogy[edit]

Perhaps we flatter ourselves, but could the Wikipedia project perhaps be seen as a similarly ground-breaking contemporary analogy to the Encyclopédie? --E. Rauch 5:52, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I don't think so. This project is a hybrid of an encyclopedia and a wiki. I think it's a very good idea when implemented well, but hardly revolutionary. --Twinxor 09:17, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Encyclopédie was not a new concept either. In fact, it started as a translation of an English encyclopedia, much in the same way as Wikipedia started by digitizing Britannica-1911. What makes Wikipedia revolutionary is how it goes where no other encyclopedia has ever been before, both in coverage and in outreach. So I agree with erauch that it may well become an "intellectual ferment" leading to some serious changes in society in the 21st century. Maybe even a revolution, who knows! Trapolator 23:34, 13 August 2005 (UTC)


Here are a list of quotations from the Encyclopédie, from the French Wikipedia article, translated by Systran. Once these have been cleaned up (preferably if you have some knowledge of French you could check it against the original) they could be moved to the article. I cleaned up the first two.

  • Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian... Other men walk in darkness; the philosopher, who has the same passions, acts only after reflection; he walks through the night, but it is preceded by a torch. The philosopher forms his principles on an infinity of particular observations. He does not confuse truth with plausibility; he takes for truth what is true, for forgery what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is probable. The philosophical spirit is thus a spirit of observation and accuracy. (Philosophical article, Diderot)

(That's actually from the "Philosophe" article, by Dumarsais - or, at least, according to my copy. I think that the title is better translated as Philosophers, rather than Philosophy, as it's talking about the people rather than the subject.)

  • 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. (article Wealth, Diderot)

These need work:

  • Since human nature is the same in all men, it is clear that according to natural rights, everyone must esteem and treat others as as many beings which are naturally equal for him, i.e. which is men as well as him. (article natural Equality, Jaucourt)
  • To bend knee in front of man or in front of image is only one ceremony external, whose true God who asks the c?ur and for the spirit hardly troubles and that it gives up at the institution of the men to make some, as it will be advisable to them, of the marks of a civil and political worship, or of a worship of religion. Thus they are not these ceremonies in themselves, but the spirit of their establishment which makes from there the practice innocent or criminal. (political article Authority , Diderot)

How about: To bend the knee before a man or an image is only an external ceremony, of which the true God, who asks for the heart and sprit, cares little for and leaves for human authority to make of what they will, be it a civil or political ceremony, or a religous one. So it is not the ceremonies themselves, but the spirit in which they are taken which makes them innocent or criminal. The first sentence is very unwieldy, but its just as bad in the original - perhaps someone can split it up while still keeping the style?

  • It is soft to dominate over its similar; the priests could make profitable the high opinion that they had given birth to in the spirit from their fellow-citizens; they claimed that the gods appeared with them; they announced their decrees; they taught dogmas; they prescribed what it was necessary to believe and what it was necessary to reject; they fixed what liked or displeased to the divinity; they returned oracles; they predicted the future with the anxious and curious man, they made it tremble by the fear of the punishments whose irritated gods threatened the bold ones who would dare to doubt their mission or to discuss to them doctrine.(article priests, of Holbach)

--Erauch 21:28, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

on second edition[edit]

I translated a bit on the second edition from fr:Encyclopédie. There it mentions the press run of 4,500 which is later in the English article attributed to the first edition. What is true?

"De 1782 à 1832, une édition complétée paraîtra en cent soixante-six volumes. Cet ouvrage, énorme pour l'époque, a occupé mille ouvriers pendant vingt-cinq ans ; il a eu 2 250 souscripteurs et un tirage de 4 250 exemplaires (nombre dérisoire aujourd'hui mais, au XVIIIe siècle, un tirage « normal » ne dépassait pas les 1 500 exemplaires). Vu le prix d'achat élevé, on peut en déduire que le lecteur était issu de la bourgeoisie, de l'Administration, de l'armée ou de l'Église. Comme les cabinets de lecture se multipliaient, il est possible qu'un public plus large y ait consulté l'ouvrage."

The last sentence may be of interest also, even if self-evident. I left it out. MGTom 19:59, 2005 Jan 26 (UTC)

I translated the 4500 figure from an earlier version of the French article, but it wasn't specified as to which edition. --Erauch 20:33, 26 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I consulted the 1911 Britannica - the confused scanned text on the net. From that it also seems that the figure is about the first edition.
It might be proper to note the host of other editions based on the Encyclopedie and remarks on its quality. Britannica 1911 on Encyclopédie MGTom 01:22, 2005 Jan 27 (UTC)


Encyclopedism links here but is undefined. --Menchi 02:18, 13 Mar 2005 (UTC)

There is no place to put the definition. Encyclopedism is the system or practical philosphy which the encyclopedists followed. --AlainV 17:09, 13 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Long gone, it seems. Just as well. See the Kafker quote, this was not a group of conspirators or even entirely like minded people.flux.books 19:04, 24 October 2005 (UTC)


I placed POV tags due to neutrality problems in the history section of the article. This section, which is merely a copy and paste of Britannica 1911, tries to portray the Encyclopédie as essentially an English work pirated by evil Frenchmen using dubious legal proceedings to dispossess innocent English editors. Almost nothing is said about the ground-breaking achievement and modernity of the Encyclopédie, which was something entirely different from the English Cyclopaedia. This English chauvinism is understandable in a pre-WW1 context, but is a glaring shame in 21st-century Wikipedia. This section ought to be rewritten entirely. I suggest translating fr:Encyclopédie. I have no time for this now. Anyone volunteering? Hardouin 12:41, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I can't translate it (not one of my languages) but I agree with the need for it. Personally I think relying on the 1911 EB is almost always a bad idea (the state of most knowledge has changed quite a bit since the early 20th century, even on topics where one would not assume that it would). --Fastfission 15:18, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
Besides the terrible POV, the style is archaic. The first thing you notice reading this article is ridiculous usage like "learned men" and overly-complex sentence. Argobarg 02:53, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
The Babelfish translations of fr:Encyclopédie looks quite accurate IMHO. --DavidHOzAu 06:04, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, but it's also way too short. Argobarg 04:50, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

I'll try to translate it, being fluent in English and native (although several years have passed since the last time I did read) in French. --euyyn 02:05, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

I removed the tags. Maybe someone fixed it since then, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the text of the article, it is accurate. It really did start out as a translations of Chambers. The only sin this article commits is not being long enough, which is the case for most of Wikipedia. -- Stbalbach 04:27, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't see anything here about its influence on the Independence of the United States! I'm sure that at least Jefferson and Franklin where influenced by it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:05, 30 October 2009 (UTC)


A task for somebody?[edit]

A recent programme of the BBC radio series "In Our Time" covered the topic of the Encyclopedie. Could we use this as a source of addition information and to help neutralize the point of view? Sancho McCann 20:38, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Beaten with cane?[edit]

To Stbalbach: Dear colleaue, Regarding your changes, in particular, the edit summarized "cleaned up Britannica 1911 nonsense". I may readily believe that EB defended the British citizen, but please provide your references to the replacement text, in particular, the part about beating with the cane attracted my attention, so that at first I thought is was a troll's joke. BTW, it would be interesting to have a phrase or two about EB whitewashing (if you were right with your edits), but I am afraid it will be too much to request from you, since it would be difficult to find reliable sources that discuss the issue. Did modern EB fix their bias, BTW? probably not: Britannica Online in artcl "French and British National Encyclopedias" says: "John Mills, the English writer on agriculture, began the translation of the Chambers' encyclopedia into French. After an argument with the publisher, he withdrew from the project and the work was turned over to Diderot" Unfortunately I don't have the big EB. `'mikka 01:28, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Sure, I just read Philipp Blom's excellent Enlightening the World (2004) ISBN 1403968950, which is more detailed than what you would find in a 100 year old Encyclopedia (or even modern one). On page 35 it says:
"On the receiving end of 'one punch of the fist to the stomach and two strikes by a cane to the head'1, which promptly brought him down, was a hapless English literary fortune hunter, sometimes translator and later writer on agriculture, John Mills".
It goes on to say:
"Le Breton eventually decided that words alone were not enough. Later he would claim that Mills had in fact drawn his sword against him and he acted in self defense. After the violent confrontation, Mills brough a suit against his assailant.." (it goes on to quote more from the source mentioned below).
Footnote 1 references the source Memoire pour Pierre-Joseph Francois Luneau de Boisjermain, Suscripteur de l'Encyclopedie, Paris, 1771, pp.8-9. (I didnt transcribe the correct French spelling).
Any questions let me know. Highly recommend the book if you want a more in-depth history. -- Stbalbach 02:31, 21 March 2007 (UTC)


Hello, I was wondering if there is any evidence that the Wikipedia or other encyclopedias were influenced by this project? The ambitions and approach are certainly similar (especially many of the values of the wikipedia around non-censorship!). --Hrimpurstala (talk) 20:15, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Other Content in the Encyclopédie[edit]

Hi, I added a few more sentences to the article to balance out the content since I felt that it could use a bit more information about the other subjects that were covered in the Encyclopédie. I thought that there was a significant amount of content on the Encyclopédie's role in spreading ideas on religious toleration, but not enough information on the nature of the project itself which was to attempt to gather all the information that existed in the world. I also added a few more references, but there isn't a lot of variety since I don't have a lot of sources on hand. I think it may be helpful to add a bit more about the political content of the Encyclopédie but I don't know where to get more about this topic. Joeyee10 (talk) 21:09, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Expanded Contents[edit]

I expanded the Contents section to better display the significance of the Encyclopedie, including a few subsections, though I did not expand the Science one. I added new sources for those sections as well. C-Star (talk) 23:38, 18 May 2013 (UTC)