The Encyclopedia, beacon of knowledge of the Enlightenment

The Encyclopedia, beacon of knowledge of the Enlightenment

The encyclopedia It was the most representative work of illustration. Your original name it is: "L’Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers”And was published between the years 1751 and 1772.

Contains much of the lore of the 18th century and it represents an enormous effort on the part of the authors to illuminate with reason the steps that Western society had to take in order to advance.

The idea for the Encyclopedia arose when the French publisher André Le Breton wanted to publish a translation of the British Cyclopaedia, made by Ephraim Chambers in 1728. To carry out the task, he turned first to John Mills and Abbe Jean Paul de Gua de Malves.

Both abandoned the project, so Le Breton chose to leave it in the hands of Diderot Y D’Alembert in 1742. Its incorporation would be vital to transform the project from a mere translation to a much broader source of knowledge aimed at expanding knowledge.

The encyclopedia used as thematic organization structure the tree of human knowledge of Francis Bacon, as well as Descartes influences and his "Discourse on the method”.

The cultural and scientific work was published in 35 volumes of the most varied: 17 were text, 11 were engravings, 4 were supplements, 2 were indexes and there was a supplement of engravings.

In total, about 150 collaborators participated, the most outstanding being Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Helvétius, Condillac, D’Hollbach, Daubenton, Marmontel, Durmasais, Quesnay, Turgot and the knight of Jaucort.

In order to manage such amount of information, 4 editors had to be used: Le Breton, Briasson, David, Laurent Durand. The project employed more than 1,000 workers for 25 years and it was a response to the need to update knowledge that the enlightened upper classes had.

According to the estimates of the time, there were 4,000 subscribers, who occupied different positions within society. Although there were no traders, there were doctors, clerks, technicians and engineers.

Diderot and the rest of the contributors, unlike traditional scientific and cultural dictionaries, dealt with a much broader field and tried to provide it at an accessible level for that enlightened audience.

Age of Enlightenment".

The encyclopedists belonged to the active sector that drew up a new economic and social order, so the work enjoyed that philosophical, scientific, critical and bourgeois spirit that the “Century of the lights"It was intended to spread throughout the societies of the world.

This aspect is the one that was not well received by the nobility, the clergy and the Jesuits, who they tried to prevent its publication. The Encyclopedia challenged Catholic dogma and classified religion as a branch of philosophy, instead of putting it as the last resort of knowledge and morals.

In 1752 the first two volumes were banned and, several years later, it became part of the “Index of prohibited books”Of the Catholic Church, the famous“Index«. The State began to practice censorship on the volumes already published and to prohibit new publications.

But this did not stop the intentions of Diderot and Le Breton, who managed to finish their project in 1772.

From 1776 to 1780, the publisher Charles-Joseph Panckoucke took up the edition of the Encyclopedia, regardless of Diderot and Le Breton. Panckoucke released 5 supplements and 2 volumes of the "Analytical and reasoned table”.

Later, during the 19th century, the Encyclopedia was expanded to 166 volumes and be called "Encyclopédie méthodique”.

In general, it can be said that the work raised concerns about economic progress to the fore, while it aroused great admiration and spread the philosophy of the enlightened.

Following the example of Diderot, D'Alembert and Le Breton, the Encyclopedia spread to the rest of the European countries, where it was completed and imitated.

Image Illustration: National Library of Spain

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.


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