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Title: Encyclopedia
Original Title: Encyclopédie
Volume and Page: Vol. 5 (1755), pp. 635–648A
Author: Denis Diderot (biography)
Translator: Philip Stewart [Duke University]
Subject terms:
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

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Citation (MLA): Diderot, Denis. "Encyclopedia." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2002. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Encyclopédie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 5. Paris, 1755.
Citation (Chicago): Diderot, Denis. "Encyclopedia." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2002. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Encyclopédie," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 5:635–648A (Paris, 1755).

Encyclopedia. This word signifies chain of knowledge ; it is composed of the Greek preposition ἐν , in , and the nouns κύκλος , circle , and παιδεία , knowledge .

Indeed, the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race.

It would have been difficult to propose a more extensive object than covering everything related to human curiosity, duty, needs, and pleasures. For this reason some persons accustomed to judge the possibilities of an enterprise by the limited resources they recognize in themselves have pronounced that we will never bring ours to completion. See the most recent edition of the Dictionnaire de Trévoux , article Encyclopedia . They shall have as sole reply this passage from Chancellor Bacon, which seems to address them specifically: De impossibilitate itá flatuo ; et omnia possibilia et praestabilia esse censenda quae ab aliquibus perfici possunt, licét non á quibusvis ; et quae á multis conjunctim, licét non ab uno ; et quae in successione saeculorum, licét non eodem aevo ; et denique quae multorum curâ et sumptf, licét non opibus et industriâ singulorum . (Bac. lib. II. De augment. scient. cap. j. pag. 103 .) [1]

When one considers the immense material for an encyclopedia , the only thing one perceives distinctly is that it cannot be the work of a single man. How could a single man, in the short span of his life, manage to comprehend and develop the universal system of nature and art? Whereas the numerous scientific community of La Crusca  [2] spent forty years constituting its vocabulary, and whereas our French Academicians had labored for sixty years on their dictionary, [3] before producing its first editon! [4] Yet what is the dictionary of a language? What is a lexicon, even executed as well as it can be? A precise collection of the articles to be filled in by an encyclopedic and analytical dictionary. [5]

It will be said that a single man is master of all that exists, and will dispose as he wishes of all the riches that other men have accumulated. I cannot agree to this principle: I do not believe it is given to a single man to know all that can be known, to make use of all there is, to see all that can be seen, to understand all that is intelligible. Were an analytical dictionary of the sciences and arts nothing more than a methodical combination of their elements, I would still ask whom it behooves to fabricate good elements; whether the elementary exposition of the fundamental principles of a science or an art is the first attempt of a pupil or the masterpiece of a master. See the article Elements of the Sciences.

But to demonstrate quite convincingly how difficult it is for a single man ever to execute an analytical dictionary of science in general, it suffices to insist upon the mere difficulties of a simple dictionary.

A universal [6] dictionary is an opus which proposes to fix the meaning of the terms of a language, by defining those which can be defined, through a short, meticulous, clear, and precise enumeration or the qualities of ideas attached to them. The only good definitions are those that group the essential attributes of the thing designated by the word. But is just anyone capable of knowing and exposing these attributes? Is the art of defining as common as that? Are we not all, more or less, in the same situation as children who apply, with the greatest precision, innumerable terms in the place of which they would be utterly incapable of substituting the correct collection of qualities of ideas they represent? Whence, how many unforeseen difficulties, when it comes to setting down the meaning of the commonest expressions? We constantly experience the fact that the ones we least understand are also those we use the most. What is the reason for this strange phenomenon? It is that we are forever in the situation of pronouncing that a thing is such ; almost never in the necessity of determining what it is to be such . Our most frequent judgments fall on specific objects, and the general usage of the language and experience suffices to guide us. We merely repeat what we have heard all our lives. Such is not the case when we need to form general notions which include, without exception, a certain number of individuals. Only the deepest contemplation and the most surprising breadth of knowledge can guide us surely. Let me clarify these principles with an example: we say of a great many objects of every kind, without any of us ever getting it wrong, that they are luxury items ; but what is this luxury which we attach so unmistakably to so many objects? That is a question one can satisfy with any precision only after a discussion which the persons who demonstrate the greatest accuracy in the application of the word luxury have not held, and are perhaps not prepared to hold.

All the terms must be defined, except for radicals, that is to say those which designate simple sensations or the most general abstract ideas. See article Dictionary. Should any be omitted, the dictionary is incomplete. Should you wish to exclude none, who will exactly define the word conjugate , if not a geometrician; the word conjugation , if not a grammarian; the word azimuth , if not an astronomer; the word epic , if not a man of letters; the word exchange , if not a merchant; the word vice , if not a moralist; the word hypostasis , if not a theologian [7]; the word metaphysics , if not a philosopher; the word gouge , if not a man versed in the arts? Whence I conclude that, if the French Academy did not bring together in its assemblies the fully gamut of knowledge and talents, it would be certain to overlook many expressions that will be sought in its dictionary, or let through false, incomplete, absurd, or even ridiculous definitions.

I am not unaware that this opinion is not that of those men who talk about everything and know nothing; who are not members of our academies; who will never be, because they are not worthy to be; who nevertheless make it their business to pick the candidates for vacant seats; who, daring to set the limits of the French Academy's purpose, were almost indignant to see the likes of Mairans, [8] Maupertuis, and D'alembert received in its company, and who are not unaware that the first time any of them spoke up there, it was to rectify the definition of the term noon . To listen to them, one would think that they presume to confine the knowledge of the language and the dictionary of the Academy to a very small number of terms familiar to them. Even then, should they look closer, among these terms they would find quite a few, such as tree, animal, plant, flower, vice, virtue, truth, force, law, which if they wished to define them rigorously would leave them no choice but to call on the philosopher, the jurist, the historian, the naturalist; in a word, the man who knows the real or abstract qualities that constitute such an entity, and that specify or individualize it, according to whether there are other entities like it or it is unique.

Let us then conclude that one will never bring a good dictionary into being without the help of a large number of different talents, because the definitions of names are not different from the definitions of things ( see article Definition), and because things can only be well defined or described by those who have long studied them. But if that is the case, what will not be required in order to carry out an opus in which, far from merely attempting to define a word, we shall attempt to describe in detail all of its properties?

A general analytical dictionary of the sciences and arts cannot, therefore, be the work of a single man [9]. I will go farther: I do not think it can be the work of any of the literary or scientific societies now existing, either separately or collectively.

The French Academy would furnish to an encyclopedia only that which pertains to the language and its usage; the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, only knowledge relative to profane history, ancient and modern, chronology, geography and literature; the Sorbonne, only theology, sacred history, and superstitions; the Academy of Sciences, only mathematics, natural history, physics, chemistry, medicine, anatomy, etc.; the Academy of Surgery only the art of that name; the Academy of Painting, only painting, engraving, scupture, design, architecture, etc.; the university only what is understood by humanities, the school of philosophy, jurisprudence, typography, etc.

Survey the other societies I may have omitted, and you will see that, each one being concerned with a particular object, [10] which doubtless belongs in the purview of a universal dictionary, they leave aside an abundance of others which should be included in it; and none of them will supply you with the breadth of knowledge you require. Go further, and require each of them to make a contribution: you will see how many things are still missing, and you will be obliged to get the assistance of a large number of men who belong to different classes, priceless men, but to whom the gates of the academies are nonetheless closed because of their social station. All the members of these learned societies are more than is needed for a single object of human science; all the societies together are not sufficient for a science of man in general.

Doubtless what one would obtain from each separate society would be very useful, and what they would supply would greatly advance the universal dictionary towards its realization. There is even one task which would bring their efforts back to the purpose of this enterprise and which should be imposed upon them. I distinguish two means of cultivating the sciences: one is to contribute to the sum of knowledge through discovery, and this is the way one merits the name of inventor  [11]; the other is to compare discoveries and reorganize them, so that more men are enlightened, and each may participate, according to his abilities, in the enlightenment of his times; and what are called classical authors are those who succeed in this genre, which is not without its difficulties. I concede that, were the learned societies throughout Europe to set themselves to collecting ancient and modern knowledge, connecting it, and publishing complete and methodical treatises, one would only be the better for it; at least let us judge that by its effects. Let us compare the twenty-four quarto volumes of the Academy of Sciences, [12] compiled in accordance with the prevailing spirit of our most celebrated academies, to eight or ten volumes composed as I conceive the project, and see whether the choice could be in doubt. The latter would contain a huge amount of excellent material dispersed through a large number of studies, where it remains unproductive of any useful sensation, like scattered embers which will never constitute a glowing fire; and of those ten volumes, the most prolific academic collection would constitute at most a few. Have a look at the Mémoires de Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres , and figure how many could be used for a scientific treatise. What can I say of the Philosophical Transactions , [13] and the Actes des curieux de la nature ? [14] In any case, all these enormous collections are precarious; and there is no doubt that the first anthologist with taste and ability will bring them down. Such was to be their ultimate fate.

Having seriously reflected on it, I find that the specific object of an academician might be to perfect the branch to which he had adhered, and to immortalize himself through writings which would not be those of the academy, which would not be a part of its collections, which he would publish under his own name; but the academy ought to take as its purpose to assemble all that has been written on every subject, synthesize it, illuminate it, concentrate it, order it and publish treatises in which each item would take up only the space it deserves, and would have only the importance that could not be denied it. How many reports, which fatten our collections, would provide not a line for such treatises!

What an encyclopedia should do is supplement the execution of this project, extended not only to the various objects of our academies, but to every branch of human knowledge: an opus that can only be carried out by a society of men of letters and artists, dispersed, each concerned with his own division, and joined together only by the general interest of humankind, and by a feeling of mutual beneficence.

I say a society of men of letters and artists in order to assemble every talent. I will have them dispersed, because there is no existing society from which one can draw all the knowledge that is needed, and because, if you wanted the project to be forever in the making and never completed, you could do no better than to create such a society. Each society has its assemblies, the assemblies are separated by intervals of time, they last only a few hours, part of that time is lost in discussions, and the simplest objects occupy months on end; whence it will transpire, as one of the Forty [15] was saying, who deploys more wit in conversation than many authors in their writings, that when the twelve volumes of the Encyclopedia  [16] have all been published we will still be on the first letter of our dictionary; whereas, he added, if those working on it held encyclopedic sessions, as we hold academic sessions, we would reach the end of our opus while they were still on the first letter of theirs; and he was right.

I add, men joined together only by the general interest of humankind, and by a feeling of mutual beneficence , because these being the most excellent motivations that can prompt men of good will to action, they are also the most durable. You can take pride personally in what you are doing; you stir yourself up; you undertake for your colleague and friend what no one would attempt for any other consideration; and I dare to say, based on experience, that the outcome of these attempts is certain. The Encyclopedia has assembled its materials in a rather short time. It is not base interest that has united and hastened the authors; they have seen their efforts abetted by most of the men of letters from whom they had reason to expect some assistance; and they have been deterred in their labors only by those who had not the necessary talent to contribute a single good page to them.

If the government participates in such an opus, it will not get done. It should use its influence only to favor its execution. With a single word, a monarch can make a palace arise from the grass; but a society of men of letters is not like a herd of manual laborers. An encyclopedia cannot be ordered up. It is a labor that must be doggedly pursued rather than launched energetically. Enterprises of this nature are incidentally proposed in courts, by way of conversation; but they never arouse enough interest to avoid being forgotten amidst the tumult and confusion of countless other more or less important matters. Literary projects conceived by the great are like leaves that grow out in the spring, dry up in the fall, and fall in endless succession in the forests, where the nutrients they supply to a few useless plants is their only noticeable effect. Among countless examples of every kind of which I have knowledge, I will cite just one. There was a proposal for experiments on the hardness of wood. The idea was to strip the bark off trees, and let them die standing. They were stripped, died standing, and probably were cut down; in other words, everything was done, except experiments on the hardness of wood. And how could they have been performed? There were to be six years between the time the first orders were given and the final procedures. If the man on whom the sovereign had depended should happen to die, or lose favor, the work is suspended, and never resumed, since a minister does not generally adopt his predecessor's plans, even though they would bring him, if not greater glory, at least rarer glory than that of having initiated them. Individuals hasten to reap the rewards of expenses they have incurred; government is in no such economic hurry. For some reprehensible reason, the prince is dealt with less honestly than his subjects. Men make minimal commitments, and demand the highest recompense. The uncertainty of whether the work will ever be of any utility causes unbelievable indolence among the workers; and to add to the handicaps all the force possible, projects commanded by sovereigns are never conceived in function of utility, but always of the dignity of the person, which is to say that they are overextended, difficulties mount up; to surmount them, men, talents, and time are required in proportion, and ultimately a revolution almost necessarily occurs which proves the fable of the Schoolmaster. [17] If the average lifetime of man is less than twenty years, that of a minister is less than ten. But it is not only that interruptions are more frequent, they are also even more damaging to literary projects, when the government is running them, than when they are run by individuals. An individual at least picks up the remains of his enterprise: he carefully sets aside materials that may serve at some more favorable moment; he tries to salvage his investment. The monarchical spirit disdains such prudence. Men die, the fruits of their waking nights disappear, and one cannot discover what has become of them.

But the fact which should lend the greatest weight to the considerations just set forth, is that an encyclopedia , like a vocabulary, has to be begun, continued, and completed within a certain amount of time, whereas sordid self-interest always tries to prolong projects ordered by kings. If one employed for a universal and analytical dictionary the long years which the scope of such an object seems to require, that dictionary would be, thanks to the intervening revolutions, which are scarcely less rapid in the sciences than in the arts or languages, the dictionary of a previous century, just as a vocabulary slowly compiled could only be that of a bygone reign. Opinions grow old and disappear like words; the interest taken in certain inventions wanes by the day, and vanishes; if the project drags out, long discussions of temporary matters will no longer be pertinent; others, whose place is past, will go unmentioned: a problem we have ourselves experienced, even though no great interval has elapsed between the date of this opus and the moment I write. [18] The reader can perceive the most disagreeable irregularity in a work destined to represent, in proper proportion, the state of things throughout all previous time; important objects stifled; small ones overblown: in a word, the opus will constantly become disfigured in the hands of its workers; it will deteriorate more from the simple passage of time, than it will ever be perfected through their efforts, and become more deficient and weak by virtue of what ought to be shortened, or dropped, or corrected, or added to, than rich from what it will progressively gain.

What diversity is not daily introduced into the language of the arts, machines, and techniques! If a man spends part of his life in the description of the arts; if, discouraged by this tiring work, he allows himself to be diverted to more entertaining and less useful occupations, and his earlier work remains in its folders, twenty years will not have elapsed before, in lieu of the new and curious things, fascinating by dint of their strangeness, interesting because of their applications, the prevailing taste, or their temporary importance, he will find nothing but incorrect notions, outdated techniques, crude or abandoned machines. In the several volumes he finally composes, there will be not one page that does not require revision; and in the multitude of illustrations he has had engraved, scarcely a figure that does not require redrawing. They are portraits the originals of which no longer exist. Luxury, father of the arts, is like the Saturn of the fable, who took pleasure in destroying his children.

The revolution may be less pronounced and less noticeable in the sciences and liberal arts than in the mechanical arts; but there is one. If you look at dictionaries of the last century, you will find under the word aberration nothing of what our astronomers mean by this term; on electricity, that productive phenomenon, there will be scarcely a few lines and even then they will be just false notions and old prejudices. How many terms are there in mineralogy and natural history of which one could say as much? If our dictionary had come a little sooner, we would have been liable to repeat with respect to Ear-cockle, a wheat disease , to grain diseases, and their trade, the errors of centuries past, because the discoveries of M. Tillet and the system of M. Herbert are recent.

When we treat of beings in nature, what better can we do than to list scrupulously all their known properties at the moment when we write? But observation and experimental physics, constantly multiplying phenomena and facts, and rational philosophy, comparing and combining them, extend or contract constantly the boundaries of our knowledge, and consequently introduce variations in the meanings of our established words, render the definitions we had of them inaccurate, false, and incomplete, and even require us to establish new ones.

But that which will lend the opus an outdated feel, and cover it with scorn, is above all the revolution that will take place in men's minds, and in the national character. Now that philosophy [19] is rapidly advancing; that it submits all the objects within its jurisdiction to its power; now that its tone is the prevailing one, and we are beginning to shake off the yoke of authority and example to hold to the laws of reason, there exists hardly a single elementary and dogmatic work with which we can be wholly satisfied. We find these productions imitate those of men, and not nature's truth. We dare raise doubts against Aristotle and Plato; and the time has come when works which still enjoy the highest reputation will lose some of it, or will even be forgotten; certain genres of literature which, for want of real life and actual practices to serve as their models, are incapable of an invariable and reasonable poetics, will be neglected [20]; and others which will remain, sustained by their intrinsic value, will take on an entirely new form [21]. Such is the effect of the progress of reason; progress which will overturn so many statues, and redress some which have been overturned. These are the statues of rare men who have come ahead of their time. We have had, if I may speak thus, contemporaries in the century of Louis XIV [22].

Time, which has dulled our taste for questions of criticism and controversy, has made a good part of Bayle's dictionary insipid. [23] There is no author who has lost so much in certain places, and gained more in others. But if such was the fate of Bayle, think what would have happened to the Encyclopedia of his time. With the exception of Perrault [24] and a few others, whose merit the versifier Boileau was not in a position to appreciate – La Mothe, Terrasson, Boindin, [25] Fontenelle – under whom reason and the philosophical or doubting spirit made such progress, there was perhaps not a man who could have written a single page of it which one would deign to read today. For let there be no mistake: there is a great difference between giving birth out of pure genius to a work celebrated by a whole nation which has its moment, its taste, its ideas and its prejudices, and setting forth the poetics of the genre, in accordance with a real and thoughtful knowledge of the human heart, the nature of things, and right reason, which are the same in every era. Genius knows no rules, and yet it never departs from them in its successes. Philosophy knows only the rules founded on the nature of beings, which is immutable and eternal. The last century furnishes us examples; it is up to ours to prescribe the rules.

The knowledge that was least widespread in the last century is becoming more so by the day. All women who have received some education are able to use with discernment every expression devoted to painting, sculpture, architecture, and letters. How many children are there who can draw, who have learned geometry, who are just as familiar with the language of the arts as with their native language, and who say an agreement, a beautiful form, an agreeable shape, a hypotenuse, a fifth, [26] a Triton, an arpeggio, a microscope, a telescope, a focus, the same as they would say an opera glass, a sword, a cane, a carriage, or an ostrich feather? Minds are also swept along in another general movement toward natural history, anatomy, chemistry, and experimental physics. The expressions belonging to these sciences are already quite common, and will inevitably become more so. What will result from all this? That even the popular language will change its appearance; it will be extended as our ears become accustomed to the words through the felicitous applications that are made of them. For if one reflects on it, most of these technical words that we use today were at the outset neologisms ; it is usage and time which have removed that equivocal overtone. They were clear, energetic, and necessary. The metaphorical meaning was not far removed from the literal one. They were descriptive. The relations on which the new usage was based were not too farfetched; they were genuine. The figurative sense did not seem a subtlety; moreover, the word was harmonious and flowing. The main idea was linked to others which we never recall without instruction or pleasure. On such bases are founded the fortune of these expressions; and the opposite causes are those of the discredit into which will fall and have fallen so many other expressions.

Our language is already quite extensive. Like all others, it has owed its formation to need, and its riches to flights of the imagination, to the constraints of poetry, and to the numbers and harmony of oratorical prose. It will make great strides under the power of philosophy; and if nothing halted the advance of the mind, in less than a century an oratorical and poetic dictionary of the century of Louis XIV, or even our own, would contain scarcely two-thirds of the words that will be in use by our descendants.

In a vocabulary, in a universal and analytical dictionary, in any work designed for the general instruction of men, one must therefore begin by framing one's object from the most extensive dimensions, understand the spirit of the nation, possess a sense of its direction, outpace it, so that it will not leave your work behind, but on the contrary meet up with it ahead; one must determine to work only for the following generations, because the moment of our existence passes, and a great enterprise will barely be completed before the present generation has passed on. But in order to be useful and new for longer, by getting further ahead of the national spirit which is constantly progressing, it is necessary to shorten the duration of the labor by expanding the number of collaborators: a means which moreover is not without its disadvantages, as we shall see further along.

Yet knowledge does not and cannot become common beyond a certain point. In truth, we do not know what this limit is. We do not know how far a given man can go. We know even less how far the human race would go, what it would be capable of, if it were not halted in its progress. But revolutions are necessary; there have always been revolutions, and always will be; the greatest interval from one revolution to another is known: this cause alone limits the extension of our work. There is a point in the sciences beyond which it is almost beyond their ability to go. When that point is reached, the achievements that remain of that advance are forever a marvel to the entire species. But if the species is limited in its efforts, how would the individual not be in his? The individual has only a certain amount of energy in his faculties, animal as well as intellectual; he only lasts for a time; he necessarily respects cycles of labor and rest; he has needs and passions to satisfy, and is exposed to endless distractions. Whenever all that is negative in these quantities adds up to the smallest possible sum, or all that is positive adds up to the largest, a man applying himself all alone to some branch of human science will take it as far as it can be taken by the efforts of a single individual. Add to the labor of that extraordinary individual that of another, and so forth, until you have filled the interval between one revolution and the one furthest removed, and you will have some notion of what the entire species could achieve, especially if you assume, as favoring its work, a certain number of auspicious circumstances that would have lessened the success had they gone against it. But the general mass of the species is able neither to follow nor to know this progress of the human mind. The highest point of instruction it can attain has its limits: whence it follows that there will be books that will forever be above the common ken of men; others will gradually drop beneath it, and still others will have both fates.

To whatever level of perfection an encyclopedia may be brought, it is evident from the nature of the work that is will necessarily be in the latter category. There are objects which are in the hands of the people, from which they draw their subsistence, the practical knowledge of which is their constant concern. Whatever treatise one may write about it, there will always come a moment when they know more about it than the book does. There are other objects about which they will remain almost entirely ignorant, because their gains in knowledge are too small and too slow, even if we assumed it is continuous, ever to amount to much enlightenment. Thus both the man of the people and the scientist will always have equally as much to desire and instruction to find in an encyclopedia . The most glorious moment for an opus of this nature would be that which immediately follows some great revolution which has suspended the progress of the sciences, interrupted the labors of the arts, and plunged a portion of our hemisphere back into darkness. What gratitude the next generation following such troubled times would feel for the men who had feared them from afar, and taken measures against their ravages by protecting the knowledge of centuries past! Then you would see (I say this without vainglory, because our Encyclopedia will perhaps never attain the perfection that would earn it such honors) that that great opus would be named along with the monarch under whom it was undertaken, the minister to whom it was dedicated, the powerful who favored its execution, the authors who devoted themselves to it, all the men of letters who took part in it. The same voice that recalled these supporters would not forget to evoke as well the burdens the authors had to bear and the affronts to which they were subjected; and the monument that would be elevated to them would have several sides, which would represent by turns the honors accorded their memory, and the marks of indignation attached to the memory of their enemies.

But knowledge of the language is the foundation of all these grand hopes; they will remain uncertain, if the language is not fixed and transmitted to posterity in all its perfection; and this object is the first of those it would behoove the encyclopedists to take seriously to heart. We have realized this too late, and this inadvertence has left its imperfection in our entire work. The language side of it has remained weak (I refer to language , and not to grammar ); and for this reason it should be the principal subject of an article in which its labor is examined impartially, and the means of correcting its defects are sought. I shall therefore speak about language specifically and as I ought. I shall even venture to invite our successors to give some attention to this piece; and I shall hope that others for whom it is less directly intended will concede its importance and excuse its length.

The institution of vocal signs to represent ideas, and of characters drawn to represent vocal sounds, was the initial seed of the progress of the human mind. A science or an art is born only through the application of our reflections to reflections previously made, and the comparison of our thoughts, observations, and experiences with the thoughts, observations, and experiences of our peers. Without the double convention which attaches ideas to sounds and sounds to letters, everything would have remained within man and died there; without grammars and dictionaries, which are the universal interpreters between peoples, everything would have remained concentrated within a single nation, and disappeared with it. It is these works which have permitted men's faculties to be compared and combined; they remain isolated without such an intermediary: an invention, however admirable, would have represented nothing more than the power of a solitary genius, or of a particular society, and never the energy of the species. A common idiom would be the sole means of establishing a correspondence that could extend to all parts of the human race, and ally them against nature, to which we must constantly do violence, in both the physical and moral domains. Assume that such an idiom were concerted and its form fixed: notions immediately become permanent; distances of time disappear; different places are contiguous; connections are created between all inhabited places in space in time, and all living and thinking beings are in contact with each other.

The language of a people furnishes its vocabulary, and the vocabulary is a fairly faithful register of all the knowledge of that people: by merely comparing the vocabulary of a nation at different times, one would get a sense of its progress. Each science has its name; each notion in the science has one as well: everything known in nature is denoted, just as everything that has been invented in the arts, and phenomena, and skills, and instruments. There are expressions both for entities outside ourselves, and for those inside us: both the abstract and the concrete ones have been named, both the particular and the general, the forms and the states, the existences, the successions, and the permanences. We say the universe ; we say an atom : the universe is the whole, the atom is its smallest part. From the general repertory of all causes down to the single being, everything has its sign: that which exceeds all limits, whether in nature or in our imagination; that which is possible and that which is not; that which is neither in nature nor in our understanding, both the infinitesimal and the infinitely great, extended, enduring, or perfect. The comparison of phenomena is called philosophy. Philosophy is practical or speculative: every notion derives either from sensation or from induction; every entity is either in the understanding or in nature: nature is put to use either by the naked sense, or by the sense aided by an instrument. The language is a symbol of this multitude of heterogeneous things: it indicates to the perceptive man how far people had gone in a given science, even in the most distant past. It can immediately be perceived that the Greeks abounded in abstract terms that the Romans did not possess, and that without these terms it was impossible for them to render what others had written about logic, morality, grammar, metaphysics, natural history, etc.; and we have made so much progress in all these sciences that it would be difficult to write about them, either in Greek or in Latin, in the state to which we have advanced them, without inventing a multitude of new signs. This single observation proves the superiority of the Greeks with respect to the Romans, and our superiority with respect to them all.

In general all peoples, relatively to the progress of the language and taste, go through innumerable minor revolutions, events little noted, which are not recorded: one can detect that they have occurred only from the tone of contemporary authors, one either modified or dictated by passing circumstances. Where, for example, is the attentive reader who, encountering the following in an author: cantus autem et organa pluribus distantiis utuntur, non tantjm diapente, sed sumpto initio á diapason, concinnunt per diapente et diatessaron ; et unitonum, et semitonium, itá ut et quidam putent inesse et diesin quF sensu percipiatur , would not immediately say to himself, we see there the course of our songs, the uncertainty we are in as to the possibility or impossibility of quarter-tone intonation. In other words, they did not know whether the Ancients did or did not possess an enharmonic scale? Did there then remain not a single musical author who could have resolved the difficulty? Were they therefore debating, at the time of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, [27] essentially the same questions concerning melody that we do? And should it be found elsewhere that the authors were deeply divided over the exact enumeration of the sounds of the Greek language; that this matter had provoked very lively disputes, sed talium rerum considerationem grammatices et poetices esse ; vel etiam, ut quibusdam placet, philosophiF , would one not conclude that it was the same with the Romans as with us? Which is to say that, after treating the science of signs and sounds rather superficially, there was a time when the better minds recognized that there was more connection between that science and the science of things than they had at first suspected, and that one could regard such speculation as not at all unworthy of philosophy. This is precisely our situation; and it is by making a repertory in this way of words incidentally invoked, and foreign to the subject specifically treated by an author in whom they characterize only his own insights, his exactitude, and his indecision, that we could arrive at an illumination of the history of the progress of the human mind in earlier centuries.

Authors sometimes do not themselves notice the impression of things taking place around them; but this impression is none the less real for that. Musicians, painters, architects, philosophers, etc., can have no disputes without the man of letters knowing about them; and reciprocally, no question can be debated in literature, without vestiges of it appearing in those who write on music, or painting, or architecture, or philosophy. They are like the reflections of a diffuse light falling on artists and men of letters, whom it makes glow. I know that their occasional abuse of expressions of which they misgauge the force, reveals that they were not up to date with the philosophy of their times; but the good mind that picks up these expressions, grabs a metaphor here, a new term there, elsewhere a word relative to a phenomenon, an observation, an experiment, or a system, has some perception of the state of prevailing opinions, the general movement that minds were beginning to receive from it, and the coloration they carried in the common language. And that, let it be said in passing, is what makes the authors of Antiquity so difficult to judge in matters of taste. The general persuasion of an opinion, a system, an accepted usage, the institution of a law, the habit of an exercise, etc., supply them with manners of speaking, thinking, rendering: comparisons, expressions, and figures of which the whole beauty could last only as long as the very thing that served as their basis. The thing passed on, and with it the discursive sparkle. Whence it follows that a writer who wishes to guarantee to his works an everlasting charm, cannot be too careful about borrowing his manner of speaking from stylish ideas, current opinions, prevailing systems, the arts in vogue; all these models are in mutation: in preference he will cling to permanent entities, the phenomena of water, earth, and air, the wonder of the universe, human passions, which are ever the same; and such shall be the truth, force, and immutability of his colors, that his works will inspire awe throughout the centuries, despite the disorder of his material, the absurdity of his notions, and all the defects that can be found in them. His particular ideas, his comparisons, metaphors, expressions, and images, by constantly bringing the reader back to nature which he never tires of admiring, will be so many partial truths by which his reputation will be sustained. People will not read him to learn to think; but they will have him in hand day and night to learn from him how to speak well. Such will be his fate, whereas so many works that are dependent only on cold good sense and heavy reasoning will perhaps be much admired, but little read, and will finally be forgotten, once a man gifted with fine genius and great eloquence has gone through them, and brought back into view truths previously austerely dry and repellent, clothed in nobler, more elegant, richer and more appealing garb.

These rapid revolutions that occur in things humanly instituted, and which will have such influence on the way posterity will judge productions handed down to them, are a powerful motivation for clinging, in an opus such as ours, where examples are often needed, to instances whose beauty is based on permanent models: without this precaution the models will pass, the truth of the imitation will no longer be felt, and the examples cited will cease to appear beautiful.

The art of communicating ideas through the painting of objects must have naturally been the first to appear; that of communicating them by setting sounds down in letters is too delicate; it must have frightened the genius who first conceived it. Only after long trials did he begin to see that distinctly different sounds were not as numerous as they seemed, and ventured to think he could represent them all with a small number of signs. Yet the first means was not without its advantages, just as the second did not remain without flaw. Painting does not capture the operations of the mind; one would not make out among the objects distributed across a canvas, as when they are expressed in discourse, the linkages that constitute a judgment or syllogism; what makes of one of those entities the subject of a clause; what constitutes a quality of these entities as its attribute; what links the clause to another to turn it into reasoning, and this reasoning to another to make of it a discourse; in short, there are countless things of this nature that painting cannot depict; but it at least displays all those which it does depict: and contrariwise while written discourse denotes them all, it displays none of them. Paintings of beings are always very incomplete; but there is nothing ambiguous about them, because they are the very portraits of objects we have before our eyes. The letters of writing extend to everything, but they are conventional; they signify nothing in themselves. The key to pictures is in nature, and is available to anybody; that of alphabetical letters and their combination is a pact of which the secret has to be revealed; and it can never be entirely revealed, because in the expressions are delicate nuances which remain necessarily indeterminate. Moreover, while painting is permanent, it is only of an instantaneous state. If it undertakes to express the simplest movement, it becomes obscure. If we see Fame on a trophy with her wings extended, holding a trumpet in one hand and in the other a crown held over a hero's head, we cannot tell whether she is bestowing the crown or taking it away: we must look to the story to resolve the ambiguity. On the other hand, whatever the variety of an action, there is always a certain collection of terms to represent it, which one cannot say for any row or group of figures. Add as many of these figures as you like, there will be interruption: the action is continuous, but the figures will only provide it in separate instants, leaving to the viewer's discernement to fill in the voids. There is the same incommensurability between all physical motion and all real representations, as between certain lines and series of numbers. However many new terms are added between one term and another, since these terms always remain distinct and do not touch, leaving an interval between any two of them, they can never correspond to certain known quantities. How can one measure any continuous quantity by a discrete quantity? Similarly, how can one represent a continuous action by images of separate instants? But do not these terms which remain necessarily unexplained in any language, the radicals, correspond rather exactly to those intermediate instants which painting cannot represent? And is it not approximately the same defect in the two cases? We are thus blocked in our project for transmitting knowledge, by the impossibility of making the entire language intelligible. How do we repertory grammatical roots? Once repertoried, how do we explain them? Is it worth our trouble to write for the centuries to come, if we are not in a position to make ourselves understood? Let us resolve these difficulties.

Here is first my opinion on the manner of identifying radicals. Maybe there is some method, some philosophical system, by means of which one would locate a great number of them: but that system seems to me difficult to invent; and whatever it is, its application seems to me subject to error, because of my well-founded habit of being suspicious of all general rules in matters of language. I would rather implement a technical means, all the more so that this technical means is a necessary consequence of the production of an encyclopedic dictionary.

First, those who collaborate on this opus must oblige themselves to define everything, without exception. Once that is done, the editor will only have to separate the terms when the same word will be taken for a type in one definition, and for a difference in another: it is evident that the necessity of this double usage constitutes the vicious circle, and is the limit of definitions. When all the words have been repertoried, it will be found by examination that of the two terms which are defined by each other, it is sometimes the more general, and sometimes the less general, which is type or difference; and it is evident that it is the more general one that should be considered one of the grammatical roots. Whence it follows that the number of grammatical roots will be precisely half the number of terms repertoried; for of two definitions of a word, one must be admitted as good and legitimate, in order to show that the other is a vicious circle.

Next let us consider the manner of fixing the notion of these radicals: it seems to me there is but one means, and still it is not as perfect as one would wish; not that it leaves ambiguity in those cases where it is applicable, but in that there can be cases to which it cannot be applied, however skillfully one goes about it. This means is to relate a living language to a dead one: there is but one dead language which can be an exact, invariable, and common measure for all men now living or who shall live, among those they speak and will speak. As that idiom exists only in authors, it no longer changes; and the effect of that characteristic is that its application is always the same, and always equally known.

If I were asked which, of the Greek and Latin languages, is to be preferred, I would answer neither; my opinion is that they both should be used: Greek for anything that Latin cannot express, or would not offer equivalent expression for, or one less exacting; I would have Greek serve only to fill in the gaps in Latin, and this simply because familiarity with Latin is more widespread: for I concede that if we were to choose on the grounds of richness and abundance, there would be no hesitation. The Greek tongue is infinitely more extensive and expressive than Latin; it has a plethora of terms which bear the evident imprint of onomatopoeia: countless notions which have signs in that tongue have none in Latin, because it appears the Latins did not rise to any level of speculation. The Greeks had burrowed into all the depths of metaphysics of the sciences, the fine arts, logic, and grammar. With their idiom anything can be said; they have all the abstract terms relative to the operations of the understanding: witness Aristotle, Plato, Sextus Empiricus, Apollonius, and all those who wrote on grammar and rhetoric. In Latin one is often hindered by the lack of expressions: it would have taken the Romans several more centuries to integrate abstractions into their language, at least to judge by the progress they made while still under the discipline the Greeks; for in any case a single man of genius can cause ferment among a whole people, abbreviate the centuries of ignorance, and carry knowledge to a point of perfection with a surprising rapidity. But this observation does not efface the truth I am advancing: for if we count the men of genius, and distribute them over the entire span of centuries past, it is evident that there will be few of them in each nation for each century, and that almost none will be found who has not improved the language. Creative men bear this distinctive trait. Since it is not merely by leafing through the writings of their contemporaries that they find the ideas they need to use in their own writings, but sometimes rather by delving deep into themselves, at other times by bursting outside themselves, and studying more attentively and more profoundly the natures about them, they are obliged, especially at the origin of languages, to invent signs to represent exactly and forcefully what they are the first to discover. It is the fire of the imagination and deep contemplation that enrich a language with new expressions; it is keenness of mind and the severity of dialectic that perfects its syntax; it is the flexibility of the speech organs that makes it more supple; it is the ear's sensitivity that makes it harmonious.

If we decide to make use of both languages, we will first write the French radical, and beside it the Greek or Latin radical, with the quotation of the ancient author from whom it was taken, and where it is used, according the definition closest to the meaning, force, and other accessory notions which must be determined.

I say the ancient radical , even though it is not impossible that a primary term, radical and undefinable in one language, may have neither of these characteristics in another: in which case it seems plain to me that with one of these peoples the human mind has made more progress than with the other. We do not yet know, it seems to me, to what extent a language is a rigorous and faithful image of the exercise of reason. What prodigious superiority one nation acquires over another, especially in the abstract sciences and the fine arts, from this single difference! And how far the English are still behind us, on the sole consideration that our language is made, and they are not yet thinking about fashioning theirs! Precision in the exact sciences, taste in the fine arts, and consequently immortality in works in that genre, depend on the perfection of the idiom.

I have specified citation of the place where the Greek and Latin synonym was used, because a single word often has several meanings; because need, and not philosophy, having dictated the formation of languages, they have had and always will have this common defect; but because a word has but one meaning in a cited passage, and that meaning is certainly the same for all peoples to whom the author is known. Μηνιν ἄειδε, θεα` , etc. Arma virumque cano , [28] etc. have but a single translation in Paris or Peking: therefore nothing is so misguided as for a Frenchman who knows Latin to learn English from an English-French dictionary, instead of having recourse to an English-Latin dictionary. Even if the English-French dictionary were written or corrected according to the invariable, common measure, or even based upon great familiarity with the two languages, there would be no way to tell; you would be required at each word to rely on the good faith and insight of your guide or his interpreter, whereas by using a Greek or Latin dictionary, you are enlightened, satisfied, reassured by the application; you compose your own vocabulary thanks to that single means, if there be one, that can replace direct intercourse with the foreign nation whose idiom you are studying. I speak, moreover, from my own experience: this method has worked well for me; I consider it a sure means of acquiring in little time very accurate notions for correctness and vigor. In a word, an English-French dictionary and an English-Latin dictionary are like two men one of whom, in telling you about the dimensions or the weight of a body, would assure you that it weighs or measures, and the other, instead of assuring you of anything, would take a yardstick or scale, and weigh or measure it before your eyes.

But what shall the recourse of the nomenclator be in those instances where the common measure fails him? I reply that a radical being by nature the sign of a simple, specific sensation, or of an abstract general idea, the instances where a common measure will be wanting cannot but be rare. But in those rare instances, one must absolutely rely on the discrimination of the human mind: we must hope that by dint of seeing an undefined expression employed with the same meaning in a large number of definitions in which this sign will be the only unfamiliar one, its value will soon be surmised. There is in ideas, and consequently in signs (for one is to the other as an object to the mirror that repeats it) a close bond, such a correspondence; each emits a light which they reflect back and forth so intensely that, if you know the syntax, and the faithful interpretation of all the other signs is given, or you have an understanding of all the other ideas that go into a sentence, with a single exception, it is impossible not to succeed in determining the exceptional idea or the unknown sign.

Known signs are so many given conditions for the solution of the problem; and however brief the discourse or how few terms it contains, it hardly seems that the problem could remain among those which have several solutions. Evidence for this lies in the very small number of places where we fail to understand ancient authors: if those places are examined, it will become clear that the obscurity arises either from the writer himself whose ideas were not precise, or the corruption of the manuscripts, or our ignorance of the customs, laws, mores, or some other such cause; never from the indeterminacy of the sign, whenever that sign has been employed with the same meaning in several different places, as necessarily occurs with a radical expression.

The most important point in the study of a language is doubtless the knowledge and meaning of its terms. Yet that leaves spelling, and pronunciation without which it is impossible to sense the full merit of harmonious prose and poetry, and which consequently must not be entirely neglected, and that aspect of spelling we call punctuation . It has happened, through alterations in rapid succession in the manner of pronouncing, and corrections which are slowly introduced into the manner of writing, that pronunciation and writing fail to coincide, and although there are among the most civilized peoples of Europe societies of men of letters whose responsibility it is to moderate and change them, and bring them closer together, they end up remarkably far apart; so that of two things one of which has only been invented, at the outset, for the purpose of faithfully representing the other, the latter is no less different from the former than portraits of the same person painted at two widely separated ages. Finally the problem reached such exaggerated proportions that no one dared try to remedy it. We pronounce one language, and write another; and we become so accustomed for the rest of our lives to this oddity that caused such tears when we were children, that if we gave up our bad spelling for one closer to pronunciation, we would no longer recognize the spoken language in its new combination of letters.

But one must not be stopped by these considerations that are so powerful on the multitude and momentarily. One absolutely must constitute a descriptive alphabet, in which the same sign does not represent different sounds, nor different signs the same sound, nor several signs a vowel or a single sound. Next we must determine the value of these signs for the most rigorous description of the different movements of the speech organs in the production of the sounds attached to each sign; distinguish with the greatest precision sequential movements from simultaneous ones; in a word not shrink from minute detail. Famous authors who have written on ancient languages have not refused to take this trouble for their idiom; why should we not do the same for ours which has its original authors in every genre, is expanding daily, and has practically become the universal language of Europe? When Molière made light of grammarians, he was stepping outside his philosophical character, and he did not know, as Montaigne would have said, that he was slapping the writers he respected the most, on the cheek of the Bourgeois Gentilhomme. [29]

We have but one means for fixing transitory but purely conventional things: it is to compare them to constant entities; and here there is no constant base other than the organs that do not change, and which, like musical instruments, will yield approximately at all times the same sounds, if we know how to manipulate their tension or length like an artist, and properly direct air into their cavities: the trachea and the mouth form a sort of flute, for which we must constitute the most scrupulous notation. I said approximately , because among speech organs there is not one which has not a thousand times more latitude and variety than is needed to introduce surprising and noticeable differences into the production of a sound. Very strictly speaking, there are perhaps not in all of France two men who have exactly the same pronunciation. We each have our own; nevertheless they are all sufficiently alike so that we often notice no disruptive disparities; whence it follows that if we do not manage to transmit our pronunciation to posterity, we will at least pass on a similar one which the custom of speaking will constantly correct; for the first time one artificially produces a foreign word, pronouncing in accordance with its prescribed movements, the most intelligent man, with the most sensitive ear and the most flexible speech organs, is in the same situation as M. Pereire's pupil. [30] Forcing every movement and separating every sound by a pause, he resembles an organized robot: [31] but the speed and boldness he gradually acquires can greatly attenuate this deficiency. Soon he will pass for native-born, even though at the start he was, with respect to a foreign language, in a worse situation than the child with relation to its native tongue, which only the nurse could understand. The sequence of the sounds of a language is not as arbitrary as one imagines; the same can be said of their combinations. If there are sounds that could not follow in succession without great effort for the speech organ, then either they do not occur, or else they are not of long duration. They are purged from the language by euphony, that powerful law which acts continually and universally without any regard for etymology and its defenders, and tends continually to attract beings who have the same organs, the same idiom, the same prescribed movements, and approximately the same pronunciation. Causes which act without interruption always in time prove the most powerful, however weak they are in themselves.

I shall not disguise the fact that this principle suffers from several problems, among them one very important one which I am going to explain. According to you, I will be told, euphony constantly tends to bring together people having the same pronunciation, especially when the movements of the organs have been determined. And yet the Germans, the English, the Italians, and the French all pronounce variously the verses of Homer and Vergil; the Greeks write Μηνιν ἄειδε, θεα` , [32] and there are Englishmen who read mi, nine, a, i, dé, zi, é , Frenchmen who read mé, nine, a, ei, ye, dé, thé, a ( ei , as in the first vowel of neige , and ye , as in the last one of paye ; this y is a consonant yeu lacking in our alphabet, [33] although it exists in our pronunciation). ( See M. Duclos's Remarques sur la Grammaire générale et raisonnée ) [34]

But what is singular is that they all admire equally the harmony of this beginning: there is the same enthusiasm, even though there is almost no sound in common. Among the French the pronunciation of Greek varies so much that it is not rare to find two scholars who understand that language very well, and do not understand each other; they are in agreement only on quantity. But quantity, being merely the law of movement of pronunciation, simply accelerating or suspending it, does nothing either for the softness or sharpness of the sounds. One can always ask how it happens that letters, syllables, and words either isolated or in combination should be agreeable to several people who pronounce them diversely. Is it a consequence of the prejudice that favors everything that comes to us from far away, the usual prestige of distance of time or place, the effect of a long tradition? How did it come about that amidst so much Greek and Latin verse, there should not be a single syllable so opposed to the pronunciation of the Swedes or the Polish that they should find it impossible to read it? Is our answer that dead languages have been so polished, that they are composed of such simple, easy, elementary combinations of sounds that in all the living languages where they are employed those sounds constitute the most pleasant and melodious part? That these living languages, undergoing constant improvement, just continually correct their harmony and bring it closer to that of dead languages? In a word, that the harmony of the latter, artificial and corrupted by the particular pronunciation of each nation, is still superior to the real, intrinsic harmony of their own languages?

I shall answer in the first instance, that this last consideration will be the more convincing as the reader is better informed of the extraordinary care the Greeks had taken to render their language harmonious: I shall not go into details, but only remark in general that there is hardly a single vowel, a single diphthong, a single consonant, whose value is so constant that euphony cannot affect it, either by altering the sound, or by suppressing it; secondly, that although the Ancients took some precautions for communicating to us the values of their letters, they were not nearly as precise or as meticulous as they ought to have been; thirdly, that the scholar who has thorough knowledge of what they have left us, will nonetheless imagine he can bring any reasonable and logical person around to a pronunciation very similar to his own; fourth, that we can perfectly prove to the Englishman that in pronouncing mi, nine, a, i, dé, zi, é , he makes six mistakes in pronunciation in seven syllables. He renders the syllable μῆ by mi ; but an ancient author tells us that sheep when they bleat produce the sound of the η . Are we to say that Greek sheep bleated differently from ours, and said bi, bi , rather than bé, bé ? We read moreover in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, η infrá basim linguF allidit sonum consequentem, non suprá, ore moderaté aperto , movements in no way executed by the person who renders η by i . He renders ει which is a diphthong, by an i , a vowel and single sound. He renders the θ by a z or a gutteral s , whereas it is nothing but an ordinary, aspirate t ; he renders θε by zi , in other words instead of channeling the air strongly toward the center of the tongue to produce the short, closed é , allidit spiritum circá dentes, ore parjm adaperto, nec labris sonitum illustrantibus , or he pronounces the letter i . He renders á by é , in other words allidit sonum infrá basim linguF, ore moderaté aperto ; whereas for the correct pronunciation of this letter á he prescribes spiritum extendere, ore aperto, et spiritu ad palatum vel suprá elato .

Contrariwise, whoever pronounced these Greek words μñνιν, ἅειδε, θεὰ as mé, nine, a, ei, ye, dé, thé, a , follows all the rules broken by the English pronunciation. Of this one can become convinced by comparing the Greek letters with the sounds I attach to them, and the movements which Dionysius of Halicarnassus prescribes for each of those letters, in his admirable opus De collocatione verborum . To give an idea of the usefulness of his definitions, I will simply record those of the r and the s . The ρ is produced, he says, lingua extremo spiritum repercutiente, et ad palatum propé dentes sublato ; and the σ, linguâ adductâ suprá ad palatum, spiritu per mediam longitudinem labente, et circá dentes cum tenui quodam et angusto sibilo exeunte . I ask you whether it is possible to satisfy these movements, and give the r and the s other values than those we attach to them. He is not less precise with respect to the other letters.

But, you may insist, if people today who read Greek comply with Dionysius of Halicarnassus's rules, they will all pronounce that language in the same manner, and just as did the ancient Greeks.

My answer to this question is a supposition that one cannot reject, however extraordinary it may be in this country: it is that a Spaniard or an Italian eagerly desiring to possess a portrait of his mistress, whom he could not produce before any painter, made the only decision he could: to write down the most extensive and precise description of her he could; he first determined the correct proportion of the entire head; then he went on to the dimensions of the forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, neck; then he went back over each of these parts, and spared nothing so that his words would engrave in the painter's mind the true image he had before his eyes; he neglected neither colors, nor forms, nor anything that characterized her: the more he compared his description with his mistress's face, the better likeness he found it to be; he believed above all that the more tiny details he could pack into it, the less freedom he would leave the painter; he neglected nothing that seemed to him likely to constrain the brush. When he deemed the description complete, he made a hundred copies, which he sent to a hundred painters, instructing each to execute exactly on the canvas what they read on the paper. The painters went to work, and after a while our lover received a hundred portraits, all of which were perfect likenesses of his description, and none of which resembled any other or his mistress. The application of this parable is that, however scrupulous a writer may be in describing the movements of the organ when it produces different sounds, there will always be a latitude, slight in itself, but enormous in relation to the real divisions of which it is capable, and to the perceptible but unmeasurable varieties which will result from these divisions. Nevertheless one cannot infer from this either that such descriptions are utterly useless, because they will never produce more than an approximate pronunciation, nor that euphony, that law to which an ancient language has owed all its harmony, if it exerts a constant pressure, will not tend at least as much to bring us closer to it as to distance us from it. These were two propositions that I needed to establish.

I will say just one thing about punctuation. There is little difference between the art of reading well and that of punctuating well. The pause of a voice in discourse, and the signs of punctuation in writing, always correspond, indicate equally well the connection or separation of ideas, and complement countless expressions. Therefore it will be useful to determine their number according to the rules of logic, and fix their value through examples.

Next we need only determine accent and quantity. What little accent [35] we have, more oratorical than syllabic, is unmeasurable; and our quantities can be reduced to longs, shorts, and some less short; in which it seems to allow fewer variations than that of the Ancients who distinguished as many as four kinds of shorts, if not in versification, at least in prose, which obviously exceeds poetry for the variety of its numbers. Thus they said that in "ὁδóς, ρóδος, τρóπος, Ϛρóφος , the fact that the first vowels are short did not prevent their having perceptibly unequal quantities. But this is another case where we can trust a trained voice to make up for any oversights.

Here then are the practical and necessary conditions for the language, without which knowledge is not communicated, to be fixed as much as its nature permits us to fix it, and for which it is important to fix it for the principal object of a universal and analytical dictionary. One must possess a descriptive alphabet, accompanied by the meticulous detail of the movements of the speech organs and the change of air in the production of sounds attached to the elementary letter, [36] and to each syllabic combination of such characters; first write the word using the customary alphabet, and then using the analytical alphabet, [37] each syllable separated and marked according to quantity; add the Greek or Latin word that renders the French word, only when it is a radical, along with the citation of the location where the Greek or Latin word is used by the ancient author; and if there are different meanings, and among these the word sometimes becomes a radical, fix it the same number of times by the corresponding radical in the dead language; in other words, define it when it is not a radical, for this is always possible, and then the Greek or Latin synonym becomes superfluous. It is apparent how slow, difficult, and thorny this labor is. What experience is required in two or three languages, in order to compare the simple ideas represented by different signs which could have among them a sort of identity, or, still more delicately, clusters of ideas represented by signs that must have the same relation; and in the frequent situations where the semblance of identity cannot be established, what subtlety and taste it takes to distinguish which of the signs can take on proximate meanings; and among the accessory ideas, [38] those to be retained or dropped. But one must not give up. The academy of La Crusca dispelled some of the difficulties in its dictionary. The French Academy, its membership combining all varieties of knowledge, poets, orators, mathematicians, physicists, naturalists, men of the world, philosophers, military officers, and being quite determined in its elections to consult only its own need for one talent rather than another, for the greater quality of its work, it is unimaginable that it would not follow this general plan, and not make its work indispensably useful to those whose job it will be to improve upon the feeble outline we are publishing.

The Academy will doubtless not fail to call attention to our gallicisms, or to the different instances where our language happens to violate the laws of general analytical grammar; for an idiomatic expression and a violation of this nature are the same thing. Whence one can see once more that in everything there is but one invariable and common measure, without which we know, can appreciate, or define nothing; that general descriptive grammar is in this case that measure; and that without such grammar, a dictionary of the language lacks a foundation, because there is nothing fixed to which one can refer the problematic instances which come up; nothing that can indicate what the difficulty is; nothing to specify what decision to make; nothing to indicate the reason for choosing among several dissimilar solutions; nothing to interpret usage, to combat or justify it, which are often possible. For it would be a prejudice to believe that the language being the basis of intercourse among men, major flaws can long remain in it, without being perceived and corrected by those whose mind is sharp and whose heart is right. It is therefore likely that violations of the general rule which remain, will be abbreviations, vigorous or euphonic expressions, and other inconsequential ornaments, rather than major corruptions. We speak constantly and write constantly; we combine ideas and signs in countless different ways; we refer all these combinations to the yoke of general syntax; sooner or later we subordinate them to it, however minor may be the consequence of making exceptions; and when this subordination does not occur, it is because we have found an advantage in doing otherwise which it is sometimes difficult to analyze, but it would be impossible to do so without descriptive grammar, analogy, and etymology which I shall call the wings of the art of speaking, as it is said of chronology and geography that they are the eyes of history.

We will not end our remarks on the language without speaking of synonyms. They could be endlessly multiplied, if we did not begin by seeking some rule to limit their number. In all languages there are expressions that differ only by quite subtle shadings. These nuances are not lost on the orator or the poet who know their language; but they constantly ignore them, the one under the difficult constraints of his art, the other carried along by the harmony of his own. It is this consideration which permits deduction of the general rule we require. One must consider as synonymous only the terms that are so treated in poetry, so as to avoid the confusion that would be introduced into the language by the indulgence we have for the rigor of the rules of versification. One must consider as synonymous only the terms that oratorical art substitutes indiscriminately for each other, so as to avoid the confusion that would be introduced into the language by the charm of the oratorical harmony which sometimes chooses and sometimes eschews the correct word, dispensing with the judgment of good sense and reason, in order to submit to that of the ear: a dispensation which at first appears a most manifest extravagance and most contrary to accuracy and truth; but which becomes, when we think about it, the basis of discrimination, of good taste, of the melody of the style, its unity, and the other qualities of elocution, which alone can assure immortality to literary productions. As the sacrifice of the correct word is never made except on occasions when the mind is not thrown too far off track by the melodious expression, the understanding then compensates for it; the discourse corrects itself, the phrase becomes harmonious; I see the thing as it is; I see in addition the character of the writer, the value he himself puts on the objects of which he speaks, the passion that moves him; the vision becomes more complex, more developed, and the enchantment grows proportionately in my mind; the ear is content, and truth is not offended. When these advantages cannot be conjured, the most harmonious writer, if he possesses exactness and taste, will never allow himself to dispense with the correct word in favor of its synonym. He will use it to strengthen or dampen the melody using some meliorative device; he will vary the tempo, or fool the ear with some other trick. Independently of harmony, the correct word must also be sacrificed to another, whenever the former evokes small, base, or obscene notions, or recalls disagreeable sensations. But in the other circumstances, would it not be more appropriate, it will be said, to leave to the reader the task of supplying the harmonious word rather than the correct one? No, even were it as easy for the ear, after the correct word has been given, to hear the harmonious one, as it is for the mind, after the harmonious word has been given, to find the correct one. If the musical effect is to be produced, then the music must be heard: it cannot be imagined; it is nothing if the ear is not actually affected by it.

We will repertory indiscriminately all the expressions that our greatest poets and finest orators have used and may use. It is posterity above all which we must have in view. It is in any case an invariable standard. There is no need to shade words one has no tendency to confuse, when the language is dead. Beyond that limit, the art of making synonyms becomes as extensive an occupation as it is childish. I would like to see two other criteria in the distinction of synonymous words. The first is not only to note the concepts that serve to differentiate, but also those that are shared. The abbé Girard [39] respected only the first part of this rule; however the part he neglected is neither less essential, nor less difficult to fulfill. The second is to choose one's examples in such a way that as the meanings are explained, the national usages, customs, character, vices, virtues, and principal transactions, etc. also be explained; and that the memory of the nation's great men, its misfortunes, and its prosperities, be recalled. It will be no more difficult to make a synonym appear useful, sensible, instructive and virtuous, than make it contrary to honesty or meaningless.

Let us add to these remarks a simple and reasonable means of shortening the word list and avoiding repetitions. The French Academy had made use of it in the first edition of its dictionary [40]; and I do not think it would have abandoned it for the benefit of limited readers, if it had considered how easy it was to assist them. This means of shortening the word list is not to distribute through several separate articles that which naturally ought to be contained in a single one. Must a dictionary contain a word as many times as there are differences in the mental perspective? The opus becomes limitless, and will necessarily be a chaos of repetitions. I would therefore make of précipitable, précipiter, précipitant, précipitation, précipité, précipice , and every other similar expression, a single article to which I would refer in all the places where the alphabetical order yielded expressions linked by a single general, common idea. As for the differences, the substantive designates either the thing or the person, or the action, sensation, quality, time, or place; the participle, the action, considered either as possible, or as present or past; the infinitive, the action relative to an agent, a place, and some indeterminate time. To multiply the definitions according to all these variations is not to define the terms; it is to return to the same notions at each new variation a term presents. Is it not evident that what suits an expression considered once under all these different points of view, also suits all those in the language which admit of the same variation? I shall note that for the perfection of an idiom, it is to be wished that the terms should take on all the variation of which they are susceptible , because there are verbs, such as the neutral ones, which exclude certain nuances; thus aller cannot have the adjective allable . But how many others are there of which this is not the case, and of which the production is limited for no reason, despite daily need, and the vexing lack particularly felt by precise and concise writers? We say accusateur, accuser, accusation, accusant, accusé , and we do not say accusable , even though inexcusable is used. How many adjectives are there which do not move toward the noun, and nouns which do not move toward the adjective? There is here a fertile spring from which our language still may draw many riches. It would be a good thing to note for each expression the shadings it lacks, so some contemporary of ours will make bold to supply them, or that for fear that, being fooled later by analogy, people consider them just ways of speaking in use in the right century.

This is what I needed to say about language. The more that object had been neglected in our work, the more important it was in relation to the goal of an encyclopedia , and the more appropriate it was to go into it here in some detail, were it only, as we have said, to indicate the means of compensating for the mistake we have made. I have not mentioned syntax, nor other parts of French basics; the person whose assignment that was has left nothing to be desired in that domain, and from that angle our dictionary is complete. [41]

But after treating the language, or the means of communicating knowledge, let us seek the best way of tying it together.

There is first a general order, that which distinguishes this dictionary from every other work in which the material is likewise subjected to alphabetical order, the order for which it is called Encyclopedia . We will say only one thing about this ordering considered in connection with the whole encyclopedic material, which is that it is not possible for the architect of the most fertile genius to introduce as much variety into the construction of a large edifice, into the decoration of its façades, the combination of its orders, [42] in short into all the parts of its distribution, as the encyclopedic order allows. It might be created either by relating our different kinds of knowledge to the various faculties of the soul (this is the system we have used), or by relating them to the entities they take as their object; and this object may be one of pure curiosity, or a luxury, or a necessity. Science in general may be divided into science of things and of signs, or into concrete or abstract sciences. The two most general causes, art and nature, also yield an elegant and broad distribution. Others will found in the distinction between the physical and the moral, the extant and the possible, the material and the spiritual, the real and the intelligible. Does not all we know derive from the use of our senses and our reason? Is it not either natural or revealed? Is it not either words, or things, or facts? It is therefore impossible to banish arbitrariness from this broad primary distribution. The universe offers us only individual beings, infinite in number, and virtually lacking any fixed and definitive division [43]; there is none which one can call either the first or the last; everything is connected and progresses by imperceptible shadings; and if throughout this uniform immensity of objects, some appear, which like the tips of rocks seem to break through the surface and rise above it, they owe this prerogative only to particular systems, vague conventions, certain unrelated events, and not to the physical arrangement of beings and to nature's intention. See the Prospectus. [44]

In general the description of a machine can begin with any part at all. The larger and more complicated the machine, the more connections there are between its parts, the less we know these connections, the more different perspectives for description there will be. What then if the machine is in every sense infinite; if we are speaking of the real universe and the intelligible universe, or a work which is like the imprint of both? Either the real or the intelligible universe has infinite points of view from which it can be represented, and the possible systems of human knowledge are as numerous as those points of view. The only one from which arbitrariness is excluded, as we said in our Prospectus , is the system which has existed from all eternity in the will of God. And the one following which we might have descended from that prime eternal being to all the beings which over time emanated from within it would resemble the astronomical hypothesis in which the philosopher is transported in thought to the center of the sun, to calculate from there the phenomena of the celestial bodies about it: an organization which has simplicity and grandeur, but which could be criticized for a serious defect in a work written by philosophers, and addressed to all men in all times: the defect of being too closely tied to our theology, a sublime science, doubtless useful for the knowledge the Christian receives from it, but even more useful for the sacrifices it requires and the recompenses it promises.

As for this general system from which arbitrariness is excluded, and which we shall never possess, perhaps there would be little advantage for us in possessing it: for what difference would there be between the reading of an opus in which all the mechanics of the universe were expounded, and study of the universe itself? Almost none: we would still be able to understand only a portion of that great book; and should the impatience and curiosity which rule us and so frequently interrupt the course of our observations, introduce disorder into our readings, our knowledge would become as fragmented as they are; losing the chain of inductions, and ceasing to perceive previous and subsequent relations, we would soon have the same gaps and the same uncertainties. Now we are busy filling in the gaps by studying nature; we would then be busy filling them by contemplating an immense volume which, being in our eyes no more perfect than the universe, would be no less exposed to the temerity of our doubts and objections.

Since the absolute perfection of a universal plan would not compensate for the weakness of our understanding, let us focus on what is appropriate to our human condition, and be content with going back to some very general notion. The higher the viewpoint from which we consider objects, the greater expanse it allows us to see, and the more the order we follow will be instructive and grand. Consequently it must be simple, because there is rarely grandeur without simplicity; it must be clear and accessible; it must not be a tortuous labyrinth where we might become lost, and in which we can perceive nothing from the point where we are; but a broad, vast avenue which extends into the distance, along which others are encountered at intervals, leading to remote and isolated objects via the easiest and shortest path.

One consideration above all must not be lost sight of, and that is that if man or the thinking, observing being is banished from the surface of the earth, this moving and sublime spectacle of nature is nothing but a sad and silent scene. The universe is dumb; silence and night overtake it. Everything changes into a vast solitude where unobserved phenomena occur in a manner dark and mute. It is the presence of man that gives interest to the existence of beings; and what could we better have in view in the history of those beings, [45] than to yield to this consideration? Why not introduce man into our opus, as he is placed in the universe? Why not make of him a common center? Is there some point in infinite space from which we could more advantageously originate the immense lines which we propose to extend to all other points? What stirring and agreeable reaction of those beings towards man, and of man toward them, would not result?

This is what has led us to seek in the principal faculties of man, the general division to which we have subordinated our labors. One may follow some other path if he prefers, provided he not put in place of man some silent, insensitive and cold being. Man is the sole point from which to begin, and to which all must be brought back, if we are to please, engage, and affect the reader even in the most arid considerations and driest details. Aside from my existence and the happiness of my peers, what does the rest of nature matter?

A second order not less essential than the previous one, is that which will determine the relative length of the different sections of the work. I admit that there arises at this point one of those difficulties which it is impossible to overcome at the outset and difficult to overcome no matter what the ultimate form of the publication. How does one establish a proper proportion between the different sections of a such a great whole? Even if it the whole thing were the work of a single man, that task would not be easy; what does it then become, when the whole is the work of a numerous society? If we compare a Universal and analytical dictionary of human knowledge to a colossal statue, it does not help, since we know neither how to determine the absolute height of the colossus, nor by what sciences or what arts its different members should be represented. What material shall serve as its standard unit? Shall it be the noblest, the most useful, the most important, or the most extensive? Shall we choose morality over mathematics, mathematics over theology, theology over jurisprudence, jurisprudence over natural history, etc.? If we hold to certain generic expressions which no two people understand in the same manner, although everyone uses them without contradiction, because one is never explicit about it; and if we ask of each contributor either elements, or a complete, general treatise, we shall soon discover how vague and indeterminate that nominal measure is. And he who thinks he has taken sufficient precautions with his various colleagues so that the materials he will get from them more or less fit in with his plan, is a man who has no idea of his object, nor of the colleagues he had enrolled. Each has his manner of feeling and seeing. I remember how an artist [46] to whom I thought I had laid out quite exactly what he needed to do for his art, brought me in accordance with my instructions, or so he claimed, on the manner of hanging wallpaper, which required about two pages of writing and a half-plate illustration, ten or twelve enormous plates covered with drawings, and three thick folio copybooks written in a very small hand, enough to fill one or two volumes in-12º. Contrariwise, another, to whom I had prescribed exactly the same rules as to the first, brought me, on one of the most extensive manufactures in terms of the variety of products it turns out, the materials it uses, the machines it employs, and the operations performed, a small catalogue of words undefined, unexplained, unillustrated, assuring me quite firmly that his art contained nothing more: he assumed that the rest either was not unfamiliar, or could not be written. We had hoped to get from one of our most talked-about connoisseurs the article Composition (Painting) (M. Watelet had not yet offered us his assistance). We received from him two lines of definition short on precision, style, and ideas, with the humiliating admission that that was all he knew ; and it was I who had to do the article Composition (Painting), I who am neither a connoisseur nor a painter. [47] These phenomena hardly astonished me. Nor was I more surprised at the same diversity between the labors of scientists and men of letters. The proof can be found in a hundred places in this work. Here we are bloated and exorbitantly fat; there we are lean, petty, pathetic, dry, and scrawny. In one place, we are skeletal, in another we rather seem dropsical; we are by turns dwarves and giants, colossuses and pygmies; standing straight, nicely built and well proportioned; hunchbacked, lame and deformed. Add to all these quirks that of a text which is sometimes abstract, recondite or mannered, more often careless, drawn-out, and diffuse; and you will compare the work to a monster of the poetic art, or even to something more hideous yet. But these defects are inseparable from a first attempt, and it is clear to me that only time and centuries to come can correct them. If our descendants attend to the Encyclopedia without interruption, they will be able to bring the organization of its material to some degree of perfection. But without a common and constant measure, there is no middle ground: one must at first allow without exception for everything a science embraces, leave each topic to itself, and prescribe no limits other than those of its object. Each thing thus being in the Encyclopedia what it is in itself, it will have its true proportion, especially when time has compressed knowledge, and reduced each subject to its proper length. Should it happen that after a large number of successive revised editions, some important topic remains in the same state, as among us could easily be the case of mineralogy and metallurgy, it will not be the fault of the work, but of the human race in general, or of the nation in particular, whose attention has not yet turned toward those objects.

I have frequently made one observation, which is that the emulation [48] which is necessarily kindled among colleagues produces dissertations instead of articles. In such cases, the whole art of referencing [49] cannot counter the effect of diffusion; and instead of reading an article of the Encyclopedia , you find yourself reading a report for an academy. This defect will lessen with subsequent editions; knowledge will necessarily converge; the bombastic, oratorical tone will abate; some discoveries having become more common and less interesting will occupy less space; then only the new materials, the discoveries of the day will be inflated. It is a sort of deference that will always be shown for the object, the author, the public, etc. Once the moment has passed, that article will be subject like the others to circumcision. But as in general new inventions and ideas introduce inevitable disproportion, and the first edition is, of all, the one containing the most things if not recently invented, as least as little known as if they were, it is evident from this reason as well as the previous one, that it is the edition in which the greatest disorder will prevail; but which on the other hand will manifest through its irregularities an appearance of originality that is not likely to pass into later editions.

Why is the encyclopedic order so perfect and regular in the English author? [50] Because since he limited himself to compilation from our dictionaries and the analysis of a small number of works, invented nothing, and stuck strictly to what was known, everything being equally interesting or indifferent to him, having neither a preference for any topic, nor favorable or unfavorable time for work, save that of a migraine or spleen, he was a laborer who plowed his furrow, shallow, but even and straight. Such is not the case with our opus. We have our pride. We want our set-pieces. Such is perhaps my vanity at this moment. One person's example attracts another. The editors object, but in vain. Their own mistakes are held up to them, and everything inclines to excess. Chambers' articles are fairly regularly distributed; but they are empty. Ours are full, but irregular. If Chambers had filled his up, I have no doubt his organization would have suffered.

A third order is that which sets forth the distribution particular to each section. That is the first document we will require of a colleague. This order does not seem to me entirely arbitrary: in this respect a science is not like the universe. The universe is the infinite work of God. A science is a finite work of human understanding. There are first principles, general notions, given axioms. These are the roots of the tree. The tree must ramify as much as possible; it must shoot off from the general object as from a trunk, rise first to the large branches or primary divisions; go on from these master branches to smaller ones; and so on, until it has reached out to the particular terms which are like the leaves and crown of the tree. And why should this detail be impossible? Has not every word its place, or, if it can be put this way, its stem and its point of attachment? All these individual trees will be carefully harvested; and to present the same ideas in a more precise image, the general encyclopedic order will be like a world map on which will be seen nothing but broad regions; particular orders, like maps of particular kingdoms, provinces, countries; the dictionary, like the geographical, detailed history of all places, the general and analytical topography of all we know in the intelligible world and the visible world; and the references will serve as itineraries in these two worlds, of which the visible one may be regarded as the old world, and the intelligible one as the new world.

There is a fourth order, less general than any of the preceding, and it is that which appropriately distributes several different articles subsumed under a single label. Here it appears necessary to respect the generation of ideas, the analogy of topics, their natural interconnections, to go from the simple to the figurative, etc. There are isolated terms which are proper to a single science, and should cause no special concern. As for those whose meaning varies and which belong to several sciences and several arts, we must make them into a small system the object of which is to dampen and palliate as much as possible the strange array of discordances. We must compose a whole as minimally irregular and disparate as we can, being guided sometimes by relationships, when they are strong, and sometimes by the importance of the topics; and failing relationships, by original turns that the editors will come up as frequently as their genius, imagination, and knowledge allow. There are topics which cannot be separated, such as sacred and profane history, theology and mythology; natural history, physics, chemistry and some arts, etc. The science of etymology, the historical knowledge of entities and names, will also furnish a large number of different views which one can always follow without fear of being confused, obscure, or ridiculous.

In the midst of these different articles of the same label to be distributed, the editor will proceed as if he himself were the author; he will follow the order he would have followed if he had to treat the word with all its meanings. In this there is no general rule to prescribe; if we knew one, the least disadvantage of following it would be the dreariness of uniformity. The general encyclopedic order would occasionally give rise to bizarre arrangements. Alphabetic order would constantly cause comical contrasts; a theological article would be plunked down in the middle of the mechanical arts. What we can all do, and without disadvantage, is to begin with the simple, grammatical meaning; sketch out under the grammatical meaning an abbreviated chart of the article as a whole; present as examples as many different expressions as there are different meanings; organize these expressions as the different meanings of the word are to be organized in the rest of the article; at each expression or example, refer to the particular meaning in question. Then we will almost invariably see logic follow grammar, metaphysics follow logic, theology follow metaphysics, morality follow theology, jurisprudence follow morality, etc.; despite the disparity of meanings, each article treated in this manner will form a whole; and despite this uniformity which all articles will have in common, there will be neither too much uniformity, nor monotony. I insist on the freedom and variety of such a distribution, because it is at once convenient, useful, and reasonable. The composition of an encyclopedia is like the founding of a large city. All the houses ought not to be constructed on the same model, even were a general model found, attractive in itself and suited to any site. The uniformity of buildings, by leading to the uniformity of the public arteries, would make the whole city appear sad and wearisome. People who walk cannot fail to be bored by a long wall, or even a long forest with which they were at first enchanted.

A good mind (and we must assume this quality in an editor) will manage to put each thing in its place, and there is no reason to fear that his own thoughts are sufficiently disordered, or his taste sufficiently poor, to mix disparate meanings for no good reason. But it would also be unjust to blame him for vagaries that would only be the necessary consequence of the diversity of topics, the imperfections of the language, and the misuse of metaphors, which transport a single word from an artisan's shop to the benches of the Sorbonne, and lump the most dissimilar things under a single label.

But whatever object is being treated, it is necessary to designate the category it belongs to; its specific difference, or the quality that distinguishes it, if there is one; or rather the cluster of those which constitute it (for from such a cluster results a necessary difference, for otherwise, there being two or more physical entities which are absolutely the same to our judgment and senses, we could not tell them apart); its causes, when they are known; what we know of its effects; its active and passive qualities; its operation; its object; its uses; whatever appears unusual about it; its generation; its growth; its vicissitudes; its dimensions; its demise, etc., whence it follows that the same object considered from so many points of view must often belong to several different fields of knowledge, and that a word taken under a single meaning will furnish several articles. If, for example, the subject is some mineral substance, it is commonly the grammarian or the naturalist who first addresses it; he passes it on to the physicist, who in turn gives it to the chemist; the chemist to the pharmacist; the pharmacist to the physician, the cook, the painter, the tanner, etc.

Whence arises a fifth order which will be all the easier to establish: that the colleagues have remained rigorously within the bounds of their own sections, and well delineated the standpoint from which they were to consider the individual item in question. A methodical, analytical enumeration of its qualities will determine this fifth and last order which also will lend itself to great variety. The sequence of operations through which a substance is passed, according to the use for which it is destined, will suggest the position which each notion should occupy. Besides, I think it necessary to allow each colleague to express himself separately. The editors' work would be endless, if they had to meld all the articles into a single one; moreover it is better to leave to each the honor of his labor, and to the reader the convenience of consulting only the portion of the article he needs.

I require only that there be method, whatever it be. I would hope that not a single crucial article would be without division and subdivision. Order provides relief to memory. But it is unlikely that an author will take this care for his reader without its turning to his own advantage. Only by long contemplation of the topic does one find a general distribution. It is almost always the last important idea one encounters. It is a single thought that develops, extends, and ramifies, feeding on all the others which come into relation with it as if by themselves. Those that resist this kind of attraction, are either too distinct from its sphere, or have some more considerable defect; and in both cases, it is appropriate to reject them. Besides, a dictionary is made to be consulted; and the essential point is that the reader should take away clearly in memory the product of his reading. One process which must sometimes be accepted, because it represents rather well the method of invention, is to begin with individual and particular phenomena so as to mount from there to more extensive and less specific knowledge; from there to yet more general knowledge, until one reaches the science of axioms or those propositions whose simplicity, universality, and obviousness renders undemonstrable. For in whatever subject area, the whole field has not been covered until you have reached a principle that can neither be proven, nor defined, nor elucidated, nor obscured, nor denied, without losing some of the light it had been able to shed, and taking a step towards the darkness which in the end would become quite dark, if no limit were set to the argumentation.

If I think there is a point beyond which it is dangerous to continue the argumentation, I also think one should not stop until one is sure it has been reached. Each science and each art has its metaphysics. This aspect is always abstract, lofty, and difficult. Yet that must be the principal aspect of a philosophical dictionary; and it could be said that as long as some such ground remains to be broken, there are unexplainable phenomena, and vice versa. Then the man of letters, the scientist, and the artist walk in darkness; if they make some progress, it is only thanks to chance; they arrive like a lost traveler who follows the right path without realizing it. It is therefore of the utmost importance to set forth the metaphysics of things, or their first and general reasons; the rest will be the more luminous for it and better assured in the mind. All the supposed mysteries for which some sciences are so criticized, and which some others so often cite to mitigate their own, when discussed metaphysically vanish like phantoms of the night on the approach of dawn. Art enlightened from the start will advance surely, rapidly, and always on the shortest path. We must thus take care to give the reasons of things, when there are some; assign the causes, when we know them; indicate the effects, when they are certain; resolve the conundrums through direct application of the principles; set forth truths; unmask errors; artfully discredit prejudices; teach men to doubt and wait; dispel ignorance; weigh the value of human knowledge; distinguish between true and false, true and plausible, plausible and miraculous or incredible, common phenomena from extraordinary phenomena, certain facts from doubtful facts, and those from facts absurd and counter to the natural order; become acquainted with the general course of events, and take each thing for what it is, and consequently inspire a desire for knowledge, a horror for lies and vice, and a love for virtue; for whatever has not happiness and virtue as its ultimate end is nought.

I cannot bear to see someone rely on the authority of authors in questions of reason; for what use is it in truth to look for the name of an author who is not infallible? Above all, no verse: it seems so feeble and paltry in the middle of a philosophical discussion. Pretty ornaments must be relegated to articles on literature; there I can approve of them, provided they are placed with taste, serve as examples, and either make the flaw that is being censured stand out, or brilliantly illustrate the that is being recommended.

In scientific treatises, it is the relations of ideas or phenomena which provide direction; as you advance, the subject matter develops, becoming either more general or more particular, according to the method chosen. The same will be true with respect to the general form of an article for the Encyclopedia article, except that the dictionary or coordinated articles have advantages which in a scientific treatise can be achieved only at the expense of some quality; and it will owe these advantages to the references, the most important aspect of encyclopedic ordering.

I distinguish two types of references: material and verbal. Material references illuminate the object, indicate its closest connections to others immediately related to it, and its distant connections with others that might have seemed remote from it; recall to mind common notions and analogous principles; strengthen consequences; bind the branch to the trunk, and lend to the whole the unity that so favors the establishment of truth and persuasion. But when required, they will have the opposite effect: they will counter notions; bring principles into contrast; covertly attack, unsettle, or overturn some ridiculous opinions which one would not venture to disparage openly. If the author is impartial, they will always have the double function of confirming and refuting, disrupting and reconciling.

There would be much art and a considerable advantage in these latter references. The entire opus would gain from them internal force and unseen utility, the silent effects of which would necessarily be perceptible over time. Whenever a national prejudice commands respect, for example, that particular article ought to set it forth respectfully, and with its whole retinue of plausibility and persuasion; but at the same time it ought to overturn an edifice of muck, dispel a vain pile of dust, by referring to articles in which solid principles form a basis for contrary truths. This means of undeceiving men acts very quickly on good minds, and ineluctably and without any disagreeable consequence, silently and without scandal, on all minds. It is the art of tacitly deducing the boldest consequences. If such confirming and refuting references are foreseen well in advance, and skillfully prepared, they will give an encyclopedia the character which a good dictionary ought to possess: that of changing the common mode of thinking. The opus which will produce this great general effect will have defects of execution; that I concede. But its plan and fundament will be excellent. The work which has no such action will be poor. Whatever good may otherwise be said of it, the praise will fade away, and the work will be forgotten.

The verbal references are most useful. Every science and every art has its language. Where would we be, if every time the term proper to an art is used, we were compelled for the sake of clarity to repeat its definition? What repetition! And can we doubt that so many digressions and parentheses and such tedium would make things obscure? It is as common to be verbose and obscure as obscure and dense; and if one of these is sometimes tiresome, the other is always tedious. What we must do, when we use such words without explaining them, is to be extremely careful to refer to the locations that deal with them, to which one would be steered only by analogy, a kind of thread that not everyone can follow. In a universal dictionary of the sciences and arts, we may be constrained in numerous circumstances to presuppose judgment, cleverness, and insight; but there are none in which we should presuppose knowledge. Let the man without intelligence complain, if he so wishes, of the unyieldingness of nature, or of the difficulty of the subject matter, but not of the author, if everything he needs in order to understand has been provided, from either the material or verbal point of view.

There is a third sort of references which must be neither over-used nor excluded: those which by juxtaposing certain relationships in the sciences, analogous qualities in natural substances, or similar operations in the arts, would lead either to new, speculative truths, or to the perfecting of the known arts, or to the invention of new ones, or to the restitution of ancient, lost arts. Such references are the work of a man of genius. Happy is he who is able to spot them. He possesses the spirit of combination, the instinct which I have defined in some of my Pensées sur l'interprétation de la nature . [51] But it is still better to risk fanciful conjectures than to allow useful ones to be lost. And for this reason I make bold to propose those that now follow.

Might one not suspect, on the basis of the inclination and declination of the magnetized needle, that its extremity in its complex motion describes a small ellipse similar to that described by the extremity of the Earth's axis?

On the basis of the very rare instances where nature offers us isolated phenomena that are permanent, such as the ring of Saturn, might one not recover them for the general and common law, by considering that ring, not as a continuous body, but as a certain number of satellites moving in the same plane, at a speed which can cause our eyes to perceive a permanent, uninterrupted sensation of shadow and light? I leave these conjectures to the appreciation of my colleague M. d'Alembert. [52]

Or, to come to objects closer to hand, and having a more certain practical value: why should we not design figures of plants, birds, animals and men, in other words tableaux, on the looms of silk weavers, where already such perfectly shaded flowers and leaves are being designed?

Why should it not be possible on the same looms to fill the background of the woolen tapestries made by needle, leaving only the space of the design to be detailed, empty and ready for hand completion, either in wool or in silk? This would offer the same rapidity of execution for such works on the loom, as on the hosiery machine for making stitches. [53] I invite artisans to reflect on that.

Could one not extend the minor art of printing with drilled characters to the printing or copying of music? The ruled paper would be available. The staves of the paper would thus be traced onto the small blades of the characters. By using these lines and even the open parts of the characters, these characters could easily be aligned on the staves. The bars separating the measures, those that tie the notes together, and all the other musical signs would be among these characters. The blades could be given widths varying with the notes' values; consequently the notes would occupy on the stave a space proportional to their value, and the measures would correspond rigorously with all the others, on other staves, without the least attention on the musician's part. Once that is done, you would have a frame holding each stave, which would then be applied in turn to as many different sheets of paper as desired, which would yield an equal number of copies of the same piece. The only care that must be taken, would be to raise or lower with a small instrument the little blades which move amongst themselves, in those places where they do not correspond as exactly as they need to, either to the lines, or to the spaces between them. [54] I shall leave the judgment of this thought to my friend M. Rousseau. [55]

Finally, a last type of reference, which can be either material or verbal, is that I would willingly call satirical or epigrammatic: such, for example, is one to be found in one of our articles where, following some pompous praise, one reads: see Cowl. The farcical word capuchon , and what one finds in the article Capuchon, could lead one to suspect that the pompous praise was merely ironic, and that the article needs to be read cautiously, carefully weighing the terms employed.

I would not wish to omit such references entirely, because sometimes they are useful. They can silently target certain kinds of foolishness, as can philosophical references against certain prejudices. It is sometimes a subtle and delicate means of fending off slanders, virtually without taking the defensive, and unmasking grave personalities qui curios simulant et bacchanalia vivunt . [56] But I do not like them to be frequent; I do not even like the one I have cited. Frequent allusions of this nature would shroud a work in darkness. Posterity, which is unaware of petty circumstances that are unworthy of being passed on, no longer senses the shrewd appropriateness, and views these words that amuse us as childishness. Instead of producing a serious, philosophical dictionary, we descend into triviality. All things considered, I would rather the truth be stated unambiguously, and that, if by misfortune or chance we are pitted against men who are dishonored, ignorant, and immoral, whose name has practically become a dishonest word, we should abstain from naming them out of shame or charity, or else we should fall on them with with no holds barred, scold them ignominiously for their vices, remind them brutally of their station and duties, and pursue them with the bitterness of Persius [57] and the bile of Juvenal or Buchanan. [58]

I know it is said of authors who have given full vent to their indignation: This is terrible! People should not be treated so harshly! These are crude insults not worth reading , and other similar words which have been uttered at all times about all works in which ridiculousness and viciousness have been depicted most powerfully, and which we read today with the greatest pleasure. Let us explain this contradiction in our judgments. At the moment when these woeful productions were published, all the wicked, in alarm, feared for their safety: the more wicked the man, the louder he complained. To the satirist he protested the age, station, and dignity of the person, and a host of petty and local considerations which fade by the day and disappear by the end of the century. Do you think that when Juvenal delivered Messalina to the porters of Rome, and Persius took a lowly lackey, and transformed him into a grave personage, a respectable magistrate, the legal profession in the one case, and gallant ladies in the other, did not cry out, saying that those barbs were horribly and criminally indecent? If you don't think so, you are wrong. But the momentary circumstances are forgotten; posterity sees only the folly, the ridiculousness, the vice and viciousness, covered with ignominy, and delights in it as an act of justice. He who censures vice lightly to me is not friend enough of virtue. One is the more indignent at injustice as one is farther from committing it; and it is a reprehensible weakness that prevents us from showing for cruelty, baseness, envy, duplicity, the deep and powerful loathing that every honest man must feel.

Whatever the nature of references, there cannot be too many of them. It is better there be too many than that any be overlooked. One of the most immediate effects, and of the most important advantages of the multiplicity of references, will be first , to perfect the word list. An essential article is related to so many other articles that it would be nearly impossible for one among the laborers not to have referenced them. Whence it follows that it cannot be forgotten; for a word which is merely accessory in one subject matter is the important one in another. But this is true in the material as well as the verbal. One person mentions a phenomenon, and refers to the articles specific to that phenomenon; another a quality, and refers to the substantive article; this one a system, that one an operation, and each one makes his reference to the appropriate location, not because of what it contains, for he has not seen a copy of it, but on his presumption of what it must contain, to illuminate and complement the article on which he is working. Thus at every moment grammar will refer to dialectic, dialectic to metaphysics, metaphysics to theology, theology to jurisprudence, juridprudence to history, history to geography and chronology, chronology to astronomy, astronomy to geometry, geometry to algebra, algebra to arithmetic, etc. One extremely important precaution is not to think so highly of one's colleague as to think he will have overlooked nothing. There are so many other reasons besides bad faith, either to get an article by, or for not treating everything that the object includes, that one cannot be too careful in referring to it.

It is, secondly , to avoid repetitions. Every science overlaps with others: they are two continuous branches off a single trunk. He who composes an opus does not enter abruptly into his subject, does not close himself strictly within it, does not leave it abruptly: he is obliged to anticipate terrain adjoining his; its consequences often take him onto another contiguous terrain on the opposite side; and how many other excursions are necessary in the body of the work? What is the purpose of the forewords, introductions, prefaces, exordia, episodes, digressions, and conclusions? If we separated scrupulously from a book what is outside the subject it treats, we would almost always reduce it to a quarter of its volume. What does the encyclopedic linkage do? Just that harsh division. It sets the limits of a subject so firmly that there remains in an article only what is essential. A single new idea generates volumes under the pen of a writer; those volumes reduce to a few lines under the pen of an encyclopedist. We are subjected unawares to what is strictest and most precise in the geometricians' method. We progress rapidly. One page always presents something different from the preceding or subsequent page. The need of a proposition, a fact, an aphorism, a phenomenon, a system, requires no more than a single citation in an encyclopedia , just as in geometry. The geometrician refers from one theorem or problem to another, and the encyclopedist from one article to another. And so it is that two types of opus, which seem so very different in nature, come by the same means to create a most dense, tightly knit, and continuous whole. What I say is so precisely true that the method by which mathematics is treated in our dictionary is the same followed for other topics. From this point of view there is no difference between an article on algebra and an article on theology.

Thanks to encyclopedic ordering, the universality of knowledge, and the frequency of references, the connections grow, the links go out in all directions, the demonstrative power is increased, the word list is complemented, fields of knowledge are drawn closer together and strengthened; we perceive either the continuity or the gaps in our system, its weak sides, its strong points, and at a glance on which objects it is important to work for one's own glory, or for the greater utility to humankind. If our dictionary is good, how many still better works it will produce!

But how will an editor ever verify these references, if he does not have his whole manuscript in front of him? This condition seems to me so important that I will pronounce that he who has the first sheet of an encyclopedia printed, without having read his copy twenty times over in advance, does not realize the extent of his functions; that he is unworthy of directing such a lofty enterprise; or that bound, as we have been, by unforeseeable events, he found himself suddenly engaged in this labyrinth, and constrained by honor to extricate himself as best he could.

An editor will never give to the whole a certain degree of perfection, if he only gets the various sections successively. If that happens it would be harder to judge the overall universal dictionary, than the general ordering of a piece of architecture, of which only the separate parts could be seen one after the other. How could there not be references overlooked? How many useless, or false, or ridiculous ones will fail to escape him? An author inserts a reference by way of proof, at least that is his intention, and it happens that what he refers to is an objection. The article which another has cited, either will not exist at all, or will include nothing analogous to the topic at issue. Another drawback is that a part of the manuscript may be missing only because the author has been writing as the work was being printed; whence it will occur that, abusing references to consult his leisure or listen to his sloth, the subject matter will be ill distributed, the first volumes lacking it altogether, the last ones overloaded, and the natural order entirely distorted. But there is worse to fear, which is that the laborer, overwhelmed at the end by a prodigious number of articles referred from one letter to the next, will mangle them, or even not do them at all, putting them off for a later edition. He will hesitate all the less to take this latter path, that by then the fortune of the work will be made, or it will not happen. But what a dilemma will we not face if it happens that the colleague who advances his work only for the next printing, dies or falls victim to a long illness! Experience has unfortunately taught us to fear such events, although the public has not yet noticed them.

If the editor has his entire manuscript in hand, he will take a section of it, and follow it in all of its ramifications. It will either contain everything that enters into its object, or it will be incomplete; if it is incomplete, it is most unlikely he will fail to be alerted to the omissions by the references made in other sections to the one he is examining, just as its own references to other sections will indicate what is in them, or what needs to be added. If a word were so unusual that it was nowhere mentioned, either in the discussion or in a reference, I dare assert it could be omitted without consequence. But are there likely to be many such, even among individual and particular things? It could only be if the thing in question held no notable place in the sciences, no useful species, no practical application in the arts. The horse chestnut tree, that tree that so abounds in useless fruits, is not even in this situation. There is nothing extant in nature or understanding, nothing that is practiced or employed in workshops, but what is linked by many threads to a general system of human knowledge. If on the contrary the item omitted were important, in order for the omission to be neither noticed, nor corrected, one would have to assume at a minimum one other omission, which would entail at least a third, and so forth, out to one solitary, isolated entity located at the outer limits of the system. There would be an entire order of entities or notions suppressed, which is metaphysically impossible. If there remains along the line just one such entity, or one such notion, one will be led from there, either by descending or by ascending, to the restitution of another, and so forth, until the entire empty interval is filled, the chain completed, and the encyclopedic order unbroken.

By detailing in this way how a genuine encyclopedia ought to be made, we are establishing very severe rules, for examining and judging the one we are publishing. Whatever use is made of these rules whether for or against us, they prove at least that no one was better placed than the authors to criticize their own product. It remains to be seen whether our enemies, after furnishing heretofore strong enough evidence of their ignorance, will not determine to give evidence of cowardice by attacking us with weapons we have not feared to place in their hands.

Repeated advance reading of the complete manuscript would doubtless obviate the need for three sorts of supplements: material, verbal, and for cross-referencing. How many terms, sometimes defined, sometimes merely mentioned in the course of an article, could take their place in the alphabetic order! How much knowledge announced in a place where it would not be sought in vain! How many principles that remain isolated, which could have been brought into conjunction by a catchword! The references in an article are like toothing stones awaiting their ornaments, which one sees sticking out at odd intervals on the vertical extremes of a long wall, or inside a convex vault, whose spacing anticipates elsewhere similar spacing and similar toothing stones.

If I so insist on the necessity of possessing the entire text, it is because omissions are, in my opinion, the gravest defects in a dictionary. It is even better for an article to be badly done, than not done at all. Nothing so annoys a reader as not finding the word he is looking for. Here is a striking example, which I report all the more freely that I must share in the blame. A nice man buys a book on which I have worked: he was tormented by cramps, and was most eager to read the article cramp : he finds the word, but with a reference to convulsion ; he goes to convulsion , from whence he is referred to muscle , and from there to spasm , where he finds nothing on cramps. [59] That, I confess, is a most foolish mistake; and I doubt not but that we have committed it twenty times in the Encyclopedia . But we are entitled to insist upon some indulgence. The work on which we labor is not of our choosing: we did not arrange its primary materials which were furnished us, and they were so to speak thrown in our lap in a state of disorder which would have disheartened anyone either less honest, or less courageous. Our colleagues are witness to the pains we have taken and are still taking: no one knows like them what effort it has taken, and still takes, to bestow on the work all the perfection of a first attempt; and we planned, if not to obviate, at least to satisfy whatever objections we might elicit, by rereading our dictionary, once it was completed, with the intention of complementing the word list, the material, and the references.

Nothing in the execution of a great work is minute; the slightest negligence has important consequences: the manuscript will serve as an example: being filled with personal names, terms of the arts, characters, numbers, letters, citations, references, etc., when published it will swarm with errors if it is not scrupulously exact. I would therefore like to invite the encyclopedists to write in capital letters words which it would be easy to mistake. In this way we would avoid almost all the typographical errors; the articles would be correct, the authors would have no reason to complain, and the reader would never be confused. Although we have not had the advantage of possessing a manuscript such as we would have wished, nevertheless there are few works printed with more care or elegance than ours. The attention and skill of the typographer have surpassed the disorder and imperfections of the copy; and we will offend none of our colleagues by asserting that among the many who have played some role in the Encyclopedia , none has better fulfilled his commitments than the printer. From this standpoint, which has struck and will strike people of taste and book collectors of any era, subsequent editions will be hard-pressed to equal the first.

We think we are aware of all the advantages of an enterprise such as the one we pursue. We think we have had only too many opportunities to realize how difficult it was to emerge with some success from a first attempt, and how much the talents of a single man, whoever he be, were unequal to this project. On that score, long before we began we had some of the insight and all the diffidence that long reflection could inspire. Experience has not diminished these dispositions. We have seen, as we labored, the material expand, the word list become more recondite, contents reintroduced under a host of different names, instruments, machines, and operations multiply beyond measure, and the numerous turns of an extricable labyrinth become ever more complicated. We have seen what application it took to confirm that the same things were the same, and how difficult to confirm that others which seemed quite different, were not different. We have seen that this alphabetical form, which afforded us constant pauses, provided so much variety in the labor, and from these points of view appeared so advantageous to follow in a long work, had its difficulties for us to overcome at every moment. We have seen that it risked making crucial articles immensely long, if everything one could naturally hope to find in them was included; or make them dry and impoverished, if, thanks to references, we pruned them, and we eliminated from them many objects that could have lent themselves to separation. We have seen how important and difficult it was to keep to a happy medium. We have seen how many incorrect and false things escape notice; how many true ones we overlooked. We have seen that only the labor of several centuries could introduce into such a mass of collected materials, the true form that suited them; could give to each section its dimension; reduce each article to its appropriate length; suppress what was bad; supply the good that was missing, and finish an opus that could fulfill the design we had of it when we undertook it. But we have seen that of all the difficulties, one of the most considerable was to produce it just once, however amorphous it be, and that no one could ever take from us the honor of having overcome that obstacle. We have seen that the Encyclopedia could only be the effort of a philosophical century; that that century had come; that fame, by conferring immortality on the names of those who would bring it to fruition, would perhaps not refuse to take up ours; and we have felt inspired by the pleasant and consoling thought that people would talk about us when we were gone; by the sensual whisper that made us hear, in the mouths of a few of our contemporaries, what men to whose instruction and happiness we were sacrificing ourselves would say about us, men we esteemed and loved, even though they did not yet exist. We have felt grow in ourselves the seed of emulation, which at death envies the best part of ourselves, and snatches from oblivion the only moments of our existence that were genuinely charmed. Indeed, man reveals himself to his contemporaries and sees himself as he is, a strange composite of sublime qualities and shameful weaknesses. But the weaknesses follow the mortal remains into the tomb, and disappear with them; the same earth covers them both: all that remains are the qualities made everlasting by the monuments he has raised to himself, or which he owes to public veneration and gratitude: honors of which the conscience of his own merit gives him advance delight; delight as pure, as strong, as real as any other delight, and in which nothing can be imaginary except the titles on which one grounds one's pretensions. Ours are deposited in this work; posterity will judge them.

I have said that only a philosophical century could attempt an encyclopedia ; and I said this because this work everywhere requires more boldness of mind than is normally possessed in centuries of cowardly taste. One must examine and stir up everything, without exception and without cautiousness: one must dare to see, as we are beginning to be persuaded, that literary genres resemble the general compilation of laws, and the first formation of cities, in that they owe their birth to a singular chance, a strange circumstance, sometimes a flight of genius; that those who came after the first inventors, were for the most part merely their slaves; that productions that should be regarded as the first step, taken blindly as the final achievement, instead of advancing an art to its perfection, have served only to hold it back, reducing other men to the servile condition of imitators; that as soon as a name was given to a composition of a particular character, one had to model strictly upon that sketch all those that were made; that if there appeared from time to time a man of daring and original genius, who, weary of the yoke received, dared to shake it off, depart from the ordinary path, and give birth to some work to which the given name and prescribed laws were not exactly applicable, he dropped into oblivion, and remained there a very long time. We must trample under foot all that old foolishness; overturn barriers not put there by reason; restore to the sciences and arts their precious liberty, and tell the admirers of Antiquity: call the London Merchant  [60] anything you like, provided you concede that this play sparkles with sublime beauties. We needed a time of reasoning, when we no longer look for the rules in authors, but in nature, and when we can feel what is false and what true in all those arbitrary poetics; I am taking the term poetics in its most general sense, for a system of given rules, according to which, in whatever genre, people pretend you must work in order to succeed.

But this century was so long in coming, that I have sometimes thought a people would be fortunate never to find an extraordinary man among them, under whom an art made its initial steps too great and too rapidly, who interrupted its invisible, natural movement. That man's works would necessarily be monstrous composites, because genius and good taste are very different qualities. Nature gives one of them in an instant; the other is the product of centuries. Such monsters will become national models; they will determine a people's taste. The good minds who follow, will find a bias in favor of them which they will not dare challenge; and the notion of the beautiful will dim, as the notion of the good would dim among uncivilized peoples who had adopted an excessive veneration for some chief of dubious character, who has made himself prominent by important services and favorable vices. In morality, God alone can serve as man’s model; in the arts, only nature. If the sciences and arts progress imperceptibly, one man will not differ sufficiently from another to influence him, found a genre that is adopted, and give its taste to a nation; consequently nature and reason will maintain their rights. They had lost them; they are about to recover them; and we shall see how important it was for us to recognize and seize this moment.

As centuries pass by, the mass of works grows endlessly, and one can foresee a time when it will be almost as difficult to educate oneself in a library, as in the universe, and almost as fast to seek a truth subsisting in nature, as lost among an immense number of books; then one would have to undertake, out of necessity, a labor that had been neglected, because the need for it had not been felt.

If we think of the image of literature in times before the invention of printing, we see a small number of men of genius busy creating, and a countless throng of workers busy transcribing. If we anticipate centuries to come, and think of the image of literature once printing, which never rests, has filled huge buildings with books, we will find it once more split into two classes of men. There will be those who read little and immerse themselves in new research or what they take to be new (for if we already are ignorant of part of what is contained in so many books published in all sorts of languages, we will know still far less about what is in those books increased a hundred-, a thousand-fold); the others, workmen incapable of producing anything, will be busy leafing through those books night and day, and separating out what they deem worthy of being anthologized and preserved. Is this prediction not already being fulfilled? And are not several of our men of letters not already busy reducing all our large books to small ones in which we still find much that is superfluous? Let us now suppose that their analyses are correct, and are distributed in alphabetical form into a number of volumes organized by intelligent men, and we will have the materials of an encyclopedia .

We have therefore undertaken today for the good of letters, and out of interest for the human race, a work which our descendants would have had to undertake, but under much less favorable circumstances: when the overabundance of books would have made its execution extremely laborious.

Allow me now, before examining further the encyclopedic material, to consider for a moment those authors who already occupy so many shelves in our libraries, are gaining terrain by the day, and in a century or two will by themselves occupy whole buildings. It must be a mortifying thought for these prolix writers, that from all the paper they have blackened with ink, there will not be a single line to extract for the universal dictionary of human knowledge. If they cannot survive by their excellence as colorists, [61] the particular quality which men of genius possess, I ask what will become of them.

But it is natural that these remarks which we allow ourselves about the fate of so many others, should also bring us to examine ourselves, and contemplate the fate awaiting us. I examine our labor without partiality; I see that there is perhaps no kind of error we have not committed, and I am forced to admit that barely two-thirds of an encyclopedia such as ours would find a place in a genuine encyclopedia . That much is considerable, especially if one concedes that by casting the foundation of such a work, we were forced to take as our starting point a bad author, whoever that might have been, Chambers, Alstedius, or some other. [62] Almost none of our colleagues would have agreed to work, if we had proposed to them to create their own sections de novo ; they would all been frightened away, and the Encyclopedia would not have been written. But by giving to each a sheath of papers, which he had only to review, correct, and augment, the labor of creation, which is always what one dreads, disappeared, and one allowed himself to become engaged with barely a thought. For those disparate fragments turned out to be so incomplete, so badly written, so ill translated, so full of omissions, errors, and imprecision, so contrary to our colleagues' thoughts, that most rejected them. Would that all had been so bold! The only advantage the former obtained, was to learn at a glance the word list of their section, which they could have found at least as completely in the tables of different works, or of some dictionary of the language.

That slight advantage cost dearly. How much time was lost translating bad things! What expenditure, from which to direct nothing more than continual plagiarism! How many mistakes and accusations we would have spared ourselves with a simple word list! But would it have sufficed to persuade our colleagues? Moreover, even that section could only be perfected through execution. As one executes a piece, the word list expands, the terms to be defined come up by the score; countless ideas occur to reference under various headings; what one does not do is at least indicated by a reference, as belonging to someone else's province: in a word, that which each one furnishes and asks of the others is the fount from which words spring.

From this it can be seen (1) that in a first edition, we could not make use of too many colleagues, but that if our labor is not entirely useless, a small number of well-chosen men would be enough to execute a second. They should be put in charge of different subordinate workers, whom they would honor for the assistance de they provided, but whose work they would be obliged to accept, so that they would have no way to avoid finishing up, so that their own reputation would be in play, and they could be directly blamed for negligence or incompetence. A worker who dares to request that his name not be placed at the end of one of his articles, admits that he considers it less than well done, or at least not worthy of him. I believe that, according to this new arrangement, it would not be impossible for a single man to handle anatomy, medicine, surgery, the medical material, and a part of pharmacy; another chemistry, the remaining portion of pharmacy, and the chemical part of the arts, such as metallurgy, dyeing, part of the goldsmith's craft, part of the coppersmith's, plumbing, the preparation of all sorts of colors, metallic and otherwise, etc. A single man well-informed of some iron craft, could include the trades of the nail maker, the cutler, the locksmith, the edge-tool maker, etc. One versed in jewelry would be responsible for the jeweler’s art, the stone merchant, the stone mounter. I would always give the preference to a man who had successfully written about the subject he is in charge of. As for the man who was in the process of preparing an opus on the subject, I would accept him as a colleague only if he were already my friend, the honesty of his character was well known to me, and I could not without doing him the greatest insult suspect him of a secret design to sacrifice our opus to his own.

(2) That the first edition of an encyclopedia can only be a very shapeless and incomplete compilation.

But, you will say, how with all these defects did you manage to achieve a success that no production so considerable has ever had? To that I reply, that our Encyclopedia has over almost every other work, I do not say of the same length, but any at all, created by a society or by a single man, the advantage of containing innumerable new things, ones which anywhere else one would look for in vain. This is the natural result of the fortunate choice of those who have devoted themselves to it.

There has never been, and will not be again for a long time, such a large and fine collection of machines. We have about a thousand plates. We are determined to spare nothing on engraving. Despite the prodigious number of figures that fill them, we have taken care to allow almost none that do not portray an existing and socially active machine. If you compare our volumes with the much applauded collection of Ramelli, [63] the machine theatre of Lupold [64], or even the volumes of machines approved by the Academy of Sciences [65], you can judge whether from all of those volumes combined, it was possible to take twenty plates worthy of being included in a collection like the one we have had the boldness to conceive and the good fortune to execute. Here there is nothing superfluous, nothing out of date or idealized: everything is in action and living. But independently of that merit, and whatever difference there may or ought necessarily to be between this first edition and subsequent ones, is it not something to have begun? Among countless difficulties which will come spontaneously to mind, just weigh simply that of having assembled a large number of colleagues, who, without knowing each other, all seem to collaborate in friendship in the production of a common opus. Men of letters have done for their peers and equals what one would not have obtained from them for any other consideration. Such is the motive to which we owe our first colleagues; and it is to the same cause that we owe those who are daily added to the enterprise. There prevails among all a sense of emulation, respect, agreement which is scarcely imaginable. Not content to furnish the assistance they have promised, they also make mutual sacrifices, which is much more difficult! Whence so many articles that coming from foreign hands, yet none of those responsible for the sciences to which they belong has ever taken offense. The reason is that individual interest is not involved; there obtains among us no petty personal jealousy, and the perfection of the work and usefulness to the human race have spawned the general feeling that motivates us.

We have enjoyed a rare and precious advantage which must not be overlooked in the project for a second edition. Men of letters of the highest reputation, artists of first rank, have deigned to send us pieces of their work. We owe Eloquence, Elegance, Esprit, etc., to M. de Voltaire. [66] M. de Montesquieu left us at his death fragments for the article Taste [67]; M. de la Tour has promised us his thoughts on Painting [68]; M. Cochin the younger would not refuse to furnish us the article Engraving if his occupations left him time to write. [69]

It would not be without usefulness to establish correspondences in the principal sites of the learned world, and I have no doubt it could be accomplished. From it would come information on customs, productions, labors, machines, etc., if no one is overlooked, and if everyone is accorded that degree of consideration that is due the disinterested man who wants to make himself useful.

It would be an inexcusable oversight not to obtain the great German encyclopedia , [70] the collected regulations of the arts and crafts of London and other countries; the works the English call mysteries , the famous regulations for Piedmont manufactures, customs registers, several inventories of the households of great noblemen and bourgeois; all the treatises on the arts in general and particular, the regulations of commerce, the statutes of communities, all the collections of the academies, especially the academic collection of which the preliminary discourse and the first volumes have just been published. Such a work cannot fail to be excellent, to judge by the sources on which they propose to draw, and by the breadth of knowledge, the fecundity of thought, the firmness of judgment and taste of the man who directs this great enterprise. [71] The greatest fortune that can befall those who will succeed us in the Encyclopedia , and who will assume the work of the following editions, is that the dictionary of the French Academy, such as I conceive it, and as it is conceived by the best minds in that illustrious company, should have appeared, that the natural history should have been published in its entirety, [72] and that the academic collection be completed. What labor would be spared!

Among the other books which it is essential to acquire, one should count the catalogues of the great libraries: it is there one comes to know the sources on which one must draw; it would even be desirable for the editor to be in correspondence with the librarians. While it is necessary to consult good works, it is not useless to leaf through bad ones. A good book furnishes one or several excellent articles; a bad book helps you do better. It adds to your task; the former condenses it. Besides, without a considerable knowledge of the bibliography, you run the constant risk of writing poorly, with great effort and much time and expense, what others have executed superbly. You go to great effort to discover things that are well known. I might observe that except for the material on the arts, everything that is properly with a dictionary's ken has already been published, and consequently it is all the more desirable that each person be familiar with the great books composed in his section, and that the editor be armed with the most complete and extensive catalogues.

The exact citation of sources would be extremely useful: this rule should be imposed. It would be an important service to those preparing to study a particular science or art, to give them an acquaintance of the best authors, the best editions, and the order they should follow in their reading. The Encyclopedia has sometimes done this correctly; it ought never to have failed.

One must analyze scrupulously and faithfully every work to which time has assured a constant reputation. I say time , because there is a great difference between an encyclopedia and a collection of journals. An encyclopedia is a rapid and disinterested exposition of the discoveries of men in all places, all kinds, and all centuries, without any judgment of persons; whereas journals are but a momentary history of works and authors. They indiscriminately review felicitous and infelicitous efforts, which is to say that in a newspaper that deserves some attention, countless books are lengthily discussed which are forgotten before the last issue of the year has come out. How much these periodicals would be abbreviated, if only an interval of time were allowed between the publication of a book and the review that would or would not appear: a given work that was discussed at length in the journal, would not even be mentioned. But what purpose does the extract serve when the book is forgotten? A universal and analytical dictionary is destined for the general and permanent instruction of the human race; periodicals, for the momentary satisfaction of the curiosity an idle few. They are little read by men of letters.

One must particularly extract from authors their systems, exceptional thoughts, observations, experiments, views, maxims, and facts.

But there are works so important, so well thought out, so precise, few in number to be sure, that an encyclopedia must swallow them whole. I speak of those in which the general object is treated in a methodical manner and in depth, such as the Essay Concerning Human Understanding , although too diffuse; the Considérations sur les moeurs , although too dense; the Institutions astronomiques , although they are not elementary enough, and so forth. [73]

The observations, facts, experiments, etc., must be distributed to their appropriate locations.

One must know how to dismember a work skillfully, manage its distributions, present its outline, give an analysis of it in the body of an article, the references of which will indicate the rest of the object. The idea is not to break its joints, but to distend them; not to separate the parts, but to disassemble them and scrupulously preserve what artists call reference marks. [74]

Sometimes it is important to mention absurd things; but it must be done lightly and in passing, solely for the history of the human mind, which reveals itself better in certain unusual oddities than in the most reasonable act. These oddities are to the moralist what the dissection of a monster is to the natural historian: it is more useful to him than to study a hundred individuals that are alike. There are words that depict more forcefully and completely than a whole discourse. A man to whom no ill act could be reproached was saying terrible things about human nature. Someone asked him, but where have you observed man as being so hideous? In myself , he replied. This was an evil man who had never done any wrong; may he die soon! Another was saying of an old friend: so-and-so is a very honest man; he is poor, but that does not keep me from making him an unusual case. I have been his friend for forty years, and he has never asked me for a penny. Ah, Moliére, where were you? You wouldn't have missed that example, and your Miser  [75] would offer none either truer or more emphatic.

Since it is also at least as important to make men better, as to make them less ignorant, I would not be displeased for us to collect every striking example of moral virtues. They must be well attested: each would be distributed to the article it would enliven. Why should we be so attentive to the preservation of the history of men's thoughts, and neglect the history of their acts? Is it not the most useful; is it not the history that does the most honor to the human race? I do not wish to have bad deeds recalled; it were better they had never existed. Man has no need of bad examples, nor does human nature need to be more decried. One should mention dishonest acts only when they have been followed, not by loss of life and property, which are only too often the sad consequences of the practice of virtue, but when they have made the evil man unhappy and despised amidst of the most brilliant rewards for his crimes. The examples that ought to be collected above all, would be those where the character of honesty is joined with that of great insight, or heroic steadfastness. The example of M. Pellisson would surely not be forgotten. He files an accusation against his master and benefactor, who is taken to the Bastille; he is brought to face the man he accused, to whom he attributes some imaginary fraud. The accused asks for the evidence. The evidence? replies Pelisson. Well, sir, it can only be found in your papers, and you know quite well they have all been burned: and so they had been. Pelisson had burned them himself, but he needed to inform the prisoner of this; and he did not hesitate to have recourse to an expedient, a sure one in truth, since everyone was fooled by it; but one which risked his freedom, perhaps his life, and which, had it not been found out, which was possible, would have attached everlasting ignominy to his name, and could redound to the shame of the republic of letters, in which Pelisson held a distinguished position. [76] M. Gobinot of Reims has borne for forty years the public indignation he incurred by excessive niggardliness from which he gained enormous sums which he used for monuments of the greatest utility. To him let us add a prelate respectable for his apostolic qualities, his distinctions, his birth, the noble simplicity of his daily life, and the solidity of his virtues. During a great calamity, it occurred to this prelate, after he had provided relief with generous free distributions of money and grain to that portion of his flock that allowed all its indigence to be seen, to assist the part that hid its misery, those whose cries were stifled by embarrassment and were only the more unhappy, against the oppression of those bloody men whose soul is overjoyed amidst of the general murmur, and he has grain brought to the public square where it is distributed for a price well below what it has cost. The partisan bias that abhors any virtuous act which is not by one of its own members, calls his charity a monopoly, and an little-known knave inscribes this horrible calumny among those with which he has long filled his weekly papers. [77] Meanwhile new calamities arrive: the inalterable devotion of this rare pastor continues to act, and finally a decent man comes along who raises his voice, and speaks the truth, giving recognition to virtue, and exclaiming, ecstatic with admiration: What courage! what heroic patience! How consoling to the human race that spitefulness is incapable of such efforts. Such are the examples that should be collected; and who would read them without feeling warmth in his heart? If an anthology were published containing many such great and praiseworthy deeds, who would consent to die without furnishing the material for a line? Can one imagine a more stirring opus? It seems to me there would be few pages which a man born with an honest and sensitive soul would not wet with his tears.

One must be particularly careful to avoid adulation. When praise is deserved, it would be most unfair to grant it only to the unfeeling, cold ashes of those who can no longer hear it: shall the equity that dispenses it yield to the modesty that refuses it? Praise is an incitement to virtue; it is a public pact you force the virtuous man to contract. If his praiseworthy deeds were engraved on a column, would he for a moment lose sight of that imposing monument? Would it not be one of the staunchest supports one could lend to human weakness? The man would have to determine to break his own statue. Praise of an honest man is the most worthy and endearing recompense from another honest man: after the praise of his conscience, the most flattering praise is that of the man of good will. O Rousseau, my dear and worthy friend, I have never had the strength to refrain from praising thee: I have felt my attraction to truth grow, and my love of virtue. Why so many funeral orations, and so few panegyrics of the living? Do you think Trajan would not have feared to give the lie to his panegyrist? If you do, you don't know the full power of everybody's admiration. After the praiseworthy deeds one has done, the keenest incentive to multiply their number is the notoriety of the first ones; and it is this notoriety that gives man a public character which he cannot easily give up. Is this innocent secret not even one of the most important of a virtuous education? Put your son in a position to practice virtue; give him a household reputation for his good deeds; attach to his name some epithet which reminds him of them; grant him some admiration: it he ever breaks that barrier, I dare assert that his soul is fundamentally bad; that your child is lowborn, and you will never make anything but a wicked man of him; with this difference, that he would have plunged head first into vice, and that held back by the contrast he has observed between the honorable names he has been given, and those he is going to incur, he will let himself slide towards evil, but on a slope that will not be so slight that attentive parents will fail to notice the successive degradation of his character.

I detest satires in a book a hundred times more than I favor praise: personal sarcasms are odious in any kind of writing; one is sure to amuse ordinary men, when one makes a point of feeding their meanness. The tone of satire is the worst of all for a dictionary; and the most impertinent and tedious of conceivable books would be a satirical dictionary: it is the only kind we lack. The offhand remark, the subtle allusion, the dainty flourish, must be absolutely banned in a great book; barbs that have to be explained go stale, or soon become unintelligible. It would be perfectly ridiculous to need a commentary in a work, of which the various sections are intended mutually to interpret each other. All that flippancy is just a foam that gradually dies down; soon the volatile part has evaporated, and all that remains is insipid sludge. Such also is the fate of most sparks that fly in the give-and-take of conversation: the agreeable, but passing, sensation they excite comes from their attachment to the moment, the circumstances, the places, the persons, the day's events: attachments which rapidly disappear. Barbs that are not noticeable, because attracting attention is not their principal merit, full of substance, and bearing the character of simplicity combined with great good sense, are the only ones that would hold up in the light of day; to sense the frivolity of the others, one only has to write them. If you showed me an author who had composed his miscellany based on conversations, I would be almost certain he has collected everything he should have ignored, and ignored everything he needed to collect. Let us take care not to commit with those whom we consult, the same mistake that writer would make with the persons he frequents. Great works are like great edifices: their only ornaments are large and few in number. Such ornaments must be distributed with restraint and discretion, or they will detract from simplicity by multiplying relations; from grandeur, by separating the sections and obscuring the whole; from interest, by dividing attention, which in the absence of this defect, which distracts and disperses it, would all be concentrated on the principal masses.

Although I proscribe satires, the same does not hold for portraits, nor reflections. Virtues are linked to each other, and vices are held, so to speak, by the hand. There is no virtue and no vice that has not its retinue: it is a sort of necessary association. To imagine a character is to identify in function of a given dominant passion, good or bad, the subordinate passions which accompany it, the sentiments, the words and deeds it suggests, and the sort of coloration or energy that the whole intellectual and moral system receives from it: whence we see that ideal paintings, conceived in terms of relations and mutual influence of virtues and vices, can never become chimerical; they are what lends plausibility to dramatic performances and all moral writings; and individuals will forever be found in society who have the good or ill fortune to look like them. And so it is that a century far removed raises hideous or respectable statues, at the base of which posterity writes various names in turn: they write Montesquieu where Plato had been engraved; Desfontaines, [78] where formerly one read Erostratus [79] or Zoilus [80]: with the disturbing difference that there will never be a shortage of increasingly dishonored names to replace those of Erostratus or Zoilus; whereas we dare not hope that the succession of centuries will offer us names increasingly more illustrious to replace Montesquieu, and come third or fourth after Plato. We cannot raise too many such statues in our opus: they should be in bronze on our public squares and in our gardens, and invite us to virtue on the pedestals where the debauchery of pagan gods has been portrayed before our eyes and our children's.

After treating the encyclopedic material in general, the reader might wish that we should enter into the examination of each of its sections in particular; but it is for the public, and not for us, to judge our labor and that of our colleagues.

We will simply answer to those who would have preferred we omit theology, that it is a field of knowledge; that this knowledge is very extensive and interesting, and that it could have been made more engaging than mythology, which they would have been sorry to see omitted.

To those who exclude geography from our dictionary: that the names and the longitude and latitude of the stars which they would admit, have no more right to remain there than the names, the longitude and latitude of the cities they reject.

To those who would have wished it be less dry: that it was necessary to limit ourselves to the only knowledge of cities that was scientific, the only kind that would enable us to construct good maps of ancient times, if we possessed it, and which will enable our posterity to construct good maps of our times, if we pass it on; and that the rest, being entirely historical, lies outside our object.

To those who have found certain traits of history, cuisine, fashion, etc. repugnant: that they have forgotten how many works of erudition these topics have spawned; that the most succinct of our articles of this sort will perhaps spare our descendants years of research and volumes of dissertations; that supposing future scientists are immeasurably more reserved than those of the last century, it is still to be presumed that they will not disdain to write a few pages to explain what is a furbelow or a pompon  [81]; that a study of our fashions, which today would be considered a frivolous piece of work, would be viewed a thousand years hence as a learned and insightful work on French dress, a work most instructive for writers, painters and sculptors; insofar as our cuisine is concerned, it cannot be disputed that it is an important branch of chemistry.

To those who have complained that our botany was neither complete nor sufficiently engaging: that these objections are utterly without foundation; that it was impossible to go further than genuses without compiling folios; that we have omitted none of the common plants; we have described them; we have given their chemical analysis, properties, either remedial or nutritive; the only thing we could have added, which would have been scientific and would not have taken up a great deal of space, would have been to indicate under the genus article how many species were known, and how many varieties; and as for the tree portion which is so considerable, it has in the Encyclopedia , from the third volume on, all the development that could be desired.

To those who are unhappy with the arts portion, and to those who are satisfied with it: that they are all right, because there are items in this immense sector that are very badly done indeed, and others which could hardly be done better.

But as the arts have been the principal object of my work, I am going to express myself freely, both on the mistakes into which I have fallen, and on the precautions which would have to be taken to correct them.

He who shall undertake the domain of the arts, will not satisfactorily fulfill his mission, for others and for himself, unless he has made extensively study of natural history, and especially of mineralogy; unless he is an excellent mechanician; unless he is well versed in rational and experimental physics, and unless he has read several courses in chemistry.

As a naturalist, he will know at a glance the substances the artists are using, and which they ordinarily make such a secret.

As a chemist, he will be familiar with the properties of those substances: he will see the reasons for countless procedures; he will reveal the secrets; the artists will not deceive him; he will immediately detect the absurdity of their lies; he will grasp the meaning of an operation: sleight of hand will not escape his notice; he will easily distinguish between an indifferent movement and an essential precaution; everything he writes about the arts will be clear, sure, and revealing; and conjectures on the means of perfecting the arts we have, of rediscovering lost ones, and of inventing new ones, will come readily to his mind.

Physics will let him understand countless phenomena that leave the workers amazed their whole lives.

With mechanics and geometry, he will easily achieve the true and real calculation of forces; he will then need only to gain experience, to temper the rigor of mathematical suppositions, a quality which distinguishes, especially in the construction of delicate machines, the great artist from the common worker to whom one can never communicate a clear notion of that temperament, if he has not acquired it, and in whom it can never be corrected, if he has formed false notions of it.

Armed with these fields of knowledge, he will first introduce some order into his work, by relating the arts to natural substances, which is always possible; for the history of arts is nothing but applied natural history . See Map of the System of Human Knowledge.

He will then trace for each artist an outline to fill in; he will oblige them to deal with the material they employ, the places where it is found, the price they pay for it, etc., the instruments, the various processes, and all the operations.

He will compare the artists' drafts with his outline; he will confer with them, have them add aloud what they have failed to include, and clarify what they have not adequately explained.

However poor those drafts, if they have been done in good faith, they will always contain countless things that the most intelligent man will never notice or suspect and cannot ask. To be sure, he will desire others; but they will be things the artist hides from no one: for I have found that those who deal constantly with an object have an equal tendency to believe that what they make no secret of, everyone knows; and that no one knows what they are keeping secret: so that they were always tempted to regard the person questioning them as either a transcendent genius or an imbecile.

While artists continue to work, he will try to correct the articles we have communicated to him, and which he will find in our dictionary. It will not take him long to discover that despite all our efforts, glaring errors have slipped in ( see the article Brick), and that there are entire articles which contain not an ounce of good sense ( see the article Cloth Bleaching): but he will learn by experience to thank us for the things that are well done, and forgive those that are bad. Once especially he has spent some time frequenting workshops, money in hand, and had to pay dearly for the silliest falsehoods, he will know what kind of people artists are, especially in Paris, where the fear of taxes makes them perpetually diffident, and where they consider any man who asks them questions with some degree of curiosity an emissary of the farmers general, [82] or as a worker who wants to go into business for himself. I have thought that these pitfalls would be avoided by seeking in the provinces all the knowledge on the arts that could be collected there: there you are known, you talk to people who are not suspicious; money is rarer, and time less dear. Whence it seems evident to me that there things could be learned more easily and less expensively, and that the information would be more reliable.

One must indicate the origins of an art, and follow its stages step by step when they can be known, or substitute conjecture and hypothetical history for the real one. It can be affirmed that in this the novel [83] would often be more instructive than reality.

But the origin and progress of an art are not like the origin and progress of a science. Scientists converse; they write; they put forward their discoveries; they refute; they are refuted. Such contestations manifest the facts and fix the dates. Artists on the contrary live unknown, hidden, isolated; they do everything for their interests, and almost nothing for their glory. There are inventions that are kept within a family for centuries: they pass from fathers to sons, are improved or atrophy, without anyone knowing either by whom or when the discovery can be said to have been made. The incremental steps by which an art progresses toward perfection also confound dating. One man harvests the hemp; another soaks it; a third scutches it: first it is a crude cord, then a thread, and ultimately canvas: but a century goes by between each of these stages. The man who would develop a product from its natural state all the way to its highest use, could hardly escape notice. How could it be impossible for a society to find itself all of a sudden wearing a new fabric, without asking who was to be thanked? But such cases do not occur, or occur only rarely.

Chance commonly suggests the first attempts; they bear no fruit and remain buried; another tries again: he has a partial success, but not the kind people talk about; a third walks in the second's footsteps; a fourth in the third's; and so on, until the end product of these experiments is excellent: and this product is the only one that creates a sensation. It also occurs that an idea has barely blossomed in a workshop before it gets out and about. Work goes on in several places at once: each man operates separately; and the same invention, claimed at the same time by several, properly belongs to none of them, or is only attributed to the one it makes rich. If the invention has come from abroad, national jealousy mutes the inventor’s name, and it remains unknown.

The government ought to allow entry to its manufactures to watch the men work, ask them questions, make drawings of their instruments, machines, and even the premises. [84]

There are circumstances in which artists are so closed-lipped that the quickest means would be to become an apprentice oneself, or have an associate do so.

There are few secrets one could not manage to learn by such means: these secrets without exception ought to be divulged.

I know that this opinion is not shared by all: there are narrow minds, unkind souls, indifferent to the fate of the human race, and so focused on their little society that they see nothing beyond its interests. These men want to be called good citizens; and that is all right with me, provided they allow me to call them cruel men . One would think, to hear them, that a well-made encyclopedia , a general history of the arts, should be nothing but a big manuscript carefully locked up in the monarch's library, and unavailable to any eyes other than his: a book of state, and not of the people. What good is it to divulge a nation's knowledge, its hidden transactions, its inventions, industry, resources, secrets, arts and all its wisdom! Are these not things it owes in part to its superiority over rival, neighboring nations? That is what they say; and here is what they could further add. Would it not be preferable, rather than enlightening the foreigner, to shed ignorance on him, and plunge the rest of the world into savagery, the better to rule over it? They fail to notice that they occupy no more than a point on this globe, and will last but an instant; and to this point and this moment they wish to sacrifice the happiness of future centuries and the entire species. They know better than anybody that the average life of an empire is less than two thousand years, and that in less time than that, perhaps, the name French , that name that will last forever in history, will be impossible to find on the surface of the earth. These considerations do not expand their vision; it seems that to them the word humanity is devoid of meaning. Were they at least consistent! But at other times they will rave at the mystery shrouding Egyptian temples: they will deplore the loss of ancient knowledge; blame the negligence or silence of the writers who were mum or spoke so inadequately of countless important objects; and they will never realize that they are demanding of earlier men what they call a crime today, and fault the others for having been what they take pride in being.

These good citizens are the most dangerous enemies we have had. In general, one should benefit from criticism, without answering it, when it is good; ignore it, when it is bad. Is it not pleasant, for all those who doggedly blacken paper against us, to think that if the Encyclopedia maintains for ten years the reputation it now enjoys, no one will talk about their writings any more, and even less so if it is itself ignored.

I once heard someone say to M. de Fontenelle that his apartment could not hold all the things that had been published against him. [85] Who knows a single one of them? L'esprit des lois and Histoire naturelle have only recently appeared, and the criticisms written of them are entirely forgotten. [86] We have already observed that among those who rose to censure the Encyclopedia , scarcely a one had the necessary talent to enrich it with a good article. I do not think it would be exaggerating to add that it is a book which they would do well to study a good bit. It was written in a philosophical spirit, and most of those who judge us are in that regard far from even the level of their century. I appeal to their writings. It is for this reason that they will not last, and that we dare presume that our dictionary will be even more read and admired in several years than it is today. We would have no difficulty naming other authors who have had or will have the same fate. Some (as we already said above), raised to the heavens, because they had written for the throng, because they had submitted to current thinking, and placed themselves within reach of average readers, have lost their reputation, as the human spirit progressed, and have finally been forgotten. Others on the contrary, too advanced for the times in which they appeared, were little read, little understood, not appreciated at all, and long remained virtually unknown, until the time when the century they were leading was past, and another century to which they belonged before it came, reached them, and finally did justice to their merit.

I think I have taught my fellow citizens to read chancellor Bacon [87]; this wise author has been more pored over in the last five or six years than ever before. We are nevertheless far from appreciating the importance of his works; minds are not yet sufficiently advanced. There are too few people in a position to rise to the level of his meditations; and the number will perhaps never increase by much. Who knows whether the Novum organum , the Cogitata et visa , the book De augmento scientiarum , are not too far above the average reach of the human mind, to become in any century easy and common reading? Only time can resolve this doubt.

But these considerations on the spirit and matter of an encyclopedic dictionary bring us naturally to discuss the style appropriate to this sort of opus.

Laconicism is not the tone for a dictionary; it would leave too much to guesswork for most readers. I prefer that what is left to the reader be limited to what could be lost without leaving him ill informed on the basics. The effect of diversity, besides the fact of its inevitability, does not in this case appear to me displeasing. Every laborer, every science, every art, every article, every subject has its language and its style. What is the harm of preserving them? If the editor had to make his hand visible everywhere, the work would be considerably slowed down, without being better. However well informed an editor be, he would often risk committing a material error, while thinking he was correcting a mistake in language.

I would summarize the general character of an encyclopedia 's style in two words: communia, proprie, proprié, communiter . [88] By heeding this rule, common things will always be elegant; and proper and particular things always clear.

A universal dictionary of the sciences and arts needs to be thought of as a vast countryside containing mountains, plains, rocks, water, forests, animals, and all the objects that make for the variety of a great landscape. The light of heaven falls on them all; but it strikes them all in different ways. Some stand out by nature and exposure, in the front of the scene; others are spread out on countless intermediate planes; some fade into the distance; all enhance each other.

If the slightest trace of affectation is unbearable in a small opus, how would a major opus look in the judgment of men of letters, in which such a flaw were egregious? I am sure that the excellence of the subject matter would not compensate for the defect of style, and it would be little read. The works of two of the greatest men nature has produced, one a philosopher, and the other a poet, would be infinitely more perfect and admired, if those rare men had not been gifted to a quite extraordinary degree with two talents that to me seem contradictory, genius and wit. [89] The most sublime thoughts are constantly spoiled by brilliant jabs and the most ingenious comparisons. Nature would have dealt much more kindly with them if, having endowed them with genius, she had denied them wit. Solid and genuine taste, the sublime in whatever genre, pathos, the great effects of fear, commiseration and terror, noble and lofty sentiments, and great thoughts all reject epigrammatic turns and contrasted expression.

If however there is a work that allows for variety of style, it is an encyclopedia ; but as I intended for the most indifferent objects to be always tacitly related to man, to take on a moral dimension, to bespeak decency, dignity, sensitivity, elevation of the soul, in a word that the breath of uprightness should be everywhere discernable, I would have the tone answer to those purposes, and take from them some austerity, even in places where the most brilliant and cheerful colors would not have been out of place. To entertain and please, when one can instruct and move, is to miss the mark.

As for purity of diction, that is something the reader is entitled to expect in any work. I do not know where people got their demeaning indulgence for large opuses and especially for dictionaries. It is as if folios were entitled to be written heavily, negligently, and without genius, taste, or subtlety. Do they believe it is impossible to introduce these qualities into a lengthy and exacting work? Or is it that since most such works which have appeared up till now commonly have these defects, they are regarded as inherent to the format?

Yet one will notice, if one looks more closely, that if there is an opus into which it is a simple matter to inject some style, it is a dictionary; everything is cut up into articles; and its longest pieces are less long than an oratorical performance.

But here is the thing. It is rare that those who write excellently wish and are able to continue for long such an arduous task; besides, in collective works where the glory of success is shared, and where the labor of one man is conflated with the labor of many, you identify someone else as your competitor; you compare your work to his; you would blush to do less well than he; you worry little about doing better; you use only part of your strength; and you hope that any neglect of yours will disappear in the immensity of the volumes.

For this reason, each man's self-interest diminishes as the number of collaborators rises; and as the work of an individual stands out less the more colleagues there are, the book overall will tend more toward mediocrity as more hands are employed in its making.

Time however lifts the veil; each is judged according to his merit. The negligent laborer is distinguished from the hard-working one who has done his duty. What a few have done shows what all should be expected to do; and the public names the ones with whom it is dissatisfied, and regrets that they should have answered so poorly to the importance of the enterprise, and the choice which had honored them.

I express myself on this subject with all the more liberty that no one will risk this kind of censure more than I, and because, whatever criticism is made of our labors, either in general or in particular, it will be none the less true that it would be very difficult to create a second society of men of letters and artists as numerous and better constituted than the one which collaborates on the production of this dictionary. If it would have been easy to find someone better than me as author and editor, one must agree that it was, for these two functions, infinitely easier to find someone less able than M. D'Alembert. How I would gain from the kind of listing where some men would compensate for others! Add to this that there are sections for which one does not choose, and this problem will obtain for all editions. Whatever royalty a man were offered, he would never put in the time requested of him. An artist must work late in his shop; a public man must attend to his duties. The latter is unfortunately too busy, and the studious man is unfortunately not well enough informed. In this case you do what you can.

But if it is a simple matter for a dictionary to be well written, there is hardly any work in which that is more important. The longer a journey must be, the more desirable that it be pleasant. Besides, we have some reason to believe that from this standpoint we have not been altogether unsuccessful. There are people who have read the Encyclopedia from one end to the other; and if we except Bayle's dictionary [90] which loses some of this prerogative with each day, there is hardly any other than ours which has enjoyed and still enjoys it. We hope it will not retain it long, since we prefer the progress of the human spirit to the durability of our productions, and we would have succeeded beyond our hopes, if we had rendered knowledge so popular, that the average man required a work more challenging than the Encyclopedia , to captivate and inform him.

As far as style goes, it would be desirable to be able to imitate Petronius, who provided at once the example and the precept, when, having to depict the qualities of a fine discourse, he said: Grandis, et ut ita dicam pudica oratio neque maculosa est neque turgida, sed naturali pulchritudine exsurgit . [91] Description is the thing itself.

We must especially avoid obscurity, and remember at every line that a dictionary is made for everybody, and that the repetition of words that would be annoying in a book for entertainment becomes a character of simplicity that will never displease in a large one.

Let there never be anything vague in the expression. In a philosophical work it would be wrong to use the most ordinary words when they convey no fixed, distinct, and determined notion; and such terms exist in very great number. If we could give them definitions, according to nature which does not change, and not according to the conventions and prejudices of men which change constantly, these definitions would become the germs of discovery. Let us also point out here our continual demand for an invariable and constant model to which our definitions and descriptions can be linked, such as the nature of man, animals, or other extant beings. The rest is nothing, and he who does not know how to dispense with certain specific, local, and transitory notions, is impeded in his work and constantly risks, in opposition to what his conscience tells him and his mind's inclination, saying things that are incorrect for the moment, and false or at least obscure and conjectural for the future.

The works of the most intrepid and lofty geniuses, of the greatest philosophers of Antiquity, are somewhat disfigured by this flaw. Those of our time are far from exempt. Intolerance, the lack of the double doctrine, [92] the defect of a hieroglyphic and sacred language, will forever perpetuate these contradictions, and continue to blemish our finest productions. Often we do not know what a man has thought about the most important matters. He wraps himself in affected abstruseness; even his contemporaries do not know his sentiments; and it must not be expected that an encyclopedia will be free from this defect.

The more abstract the topic, the more we must strive to make it accessible to all readers.

An editor with some experience, who can discipline himself, will place himself in the middle class of minds. If nature had raised him to the first level of genius, and he had never descended lower, ever conversing with men of the greatest insight, he would be able to contemplate objects from a viewpoint to which the throng cannot aspire. Too far above them, the work would become enigmatic for everyone. But if he were unfortunately, or had were condescending enough to act, beneath them, the material presented as if for imbeciles would become lengthy and tedious. He will therefore consider the world his school, and the human race his pupil; and he will dictate lessons that will neither cause good minds to waste precious time, nor discourage the mass of ordinary minds. There are two classes of men, about equally narrow, who should be equally ignored. These are the transcendent geniuses and the imbeciles, neither of which needs teachers.

But though it is not easy to grasp the common capacity of minds, it is much less so still for the man of genius to stop there. Genius naturally tends to rise; it seeks the ethereal regions; with a moment's inattention it is swiftly swept away, and soon ordinary eyes can no longer spot and follow it.

If each encyclopedist had performed his work well, an editor's principal concern would be reduced to circumscribing the various objects rigorously, enclosing the sections within themselves, and deleting repetitions, which is always easier to do than to fill in omissions; repetitions can be seen and corrected with a stroke of the pen, whereas omissions hide and cannot be filled in without labor. The great dilemma is that when they stand out, it is so suddenly that with the editor finding himself pressed between the subject matter which requires time, and the rapid pace of printing which allows none, either the work must be mangled, or the order perverted: the work mangled if the task is fulfilled in terms of time; the order perverted, if it is referred away to some far-removed location in the dictionary.

Where is the man sufficiently versed in all the subjects to write about them as needed, as if he had long studied them? Where is the editor who has an author's principles present enough in his mind, or notions sufficiently in conformity with his, to avoid falling into some contradiction?

Is it not even a labor almost beyond his strength, having to spot the contradictions that will necessarily arise between his associates' principles and thoughts? If resolving them when they are real is not his function, he at least must do so when they are only apparent: and in the first case, can he avoid pointing them out, highlighting them, noting their source, showing the common path that two authors have followed, and the point of separation where they began to part company; weighing their reasons; proposing observations and experiments for and against; pointing toward the side of truth, or of plausibility? He can put the work beyond reproach only by observing expressly that it is not the dictionary which contradicts itself, but the sciences and the arts which are not in agreement. Were he to go further, to resolve the difficulties, he would be a man of genius; but can one require of an editor that he be a man of genius? And would it not be folly to ask him to be a universal genius?

One care I will recommend to the editor who succeeds us, both for the good of the opus, and for his personal security, is to send to the censors the printed sheets, and not the manuscript. With this precaution, the articles will be neither lost, nor re-arranged, nor suppressed; and the censor's initials at the bottom of the printed sheet will be the surest guarantee that nothing has been added, or altered, or removed, and that the work has remained in the state in which he has judged it is suitable for printing.

But the name and function of censor remind me of an important question. We have been asked whether it would not be better for the Encyclopedia to have a tacit rather than a formal permission [93]: those who maintained the affirmative said that then the authors would enjoy all the freedom necessary to create a superior opus. How many important subjects would be treated! What fine articles would be provided by public access! How many others could be printed in two columns, one establishing the pro, the other the contra! What is historical would be presented impartially; what is good openly praised; what is evil unreservedly condemned; truths affirmed; doubts put forward; prejudices destroyed, and the use of political references very restrained.

Their opponents simply replied that it was better to sacrifice a little freedom than risk falling into excess; and moreover, they added, such is the constitution of things about us, that if an extraordinary man had conceived the writing of a work as extensive as ours, and were gifted by the Supreme Being to know the truth in all things, his security would still require that he be assigned to some inaccessible location in the sky, from whence his pages would drop to earth.

Since it is then so advantageous to undergo literary censorship, one cannot have too intelligent a censor: he must know how to enter into the work's general character; to see without self-interest or faint-heartedness; to respect only what is genuinely respectable; to recognize the tone that befits every person and every subject; to recoil neither in the face of Diogenes' cynical remarks, nor Winslou’s [94] technical terms, nor the syllogisms of Anaxagoras [95]; not to require the refutation, weakening, or suppression of what is simply recounted historically; to sense the difference between an immense work and a duodecimo; and to possess enough love for the truth, virtue, and the progress of human knowledge and the nation’s honor, to have only these great objects in view.

Such is the censor I would wish; as to the man I would desire as author, he would be firm, well informed, honest, truthful; without country, without sect, without station; relating things of the moment when he lives as if he were a thousand years removed, and those of the place where he lives as if he were a thousand leagues removed. But whom should such a worthy colleague have as editor? A man endowed with great good sense, well known for the breadth of his knowledge, the loftiness of his sentiments and thoughts, and his love of labor: a man loved and respected for his domestic and public character; never fanatical, unless it be for truth, virtue, and humanity.

One must not imagine that the confluence of so many favorable circumstances would leave the Encyclopedia free of imperfection: there will always be defects in a work of this magnitude. They will be corrected in the first instance, as they are discovered, through supplements; but the time will necessarily come when the public itself will desire it to be completely redone; and as one cannot know to whose hands this important labor will be entrusted, it remains uncertain whether the new edition will be inferior or preferable to the previous one. It is not rare to see major works clumsily revised, amended, and expanded, degenerate at each printing, and finally be scorned. We could cite a recent example, [96] if we did not fear we were giving in to resentment while thinking we were bowing to the interests of truth.

The Encyclopedia can easily be improved; it can also easily deteriorate. But the danger that must principally be countered, and which we have foreseen, is that the care of subsequent editions not be turned over to the despotism of a society or a company of any kind. [97] We have announced, and we attest to our contemporaries and posterity, that the least detriment that could result from that, would be the suppression of essential items; endless multiplication in volume and number of those that should be suppressed; infection of the mass of the work by esprit de corps, which is ordinarily petty, jealous, concentrated; neglect of the arts; invasion of material of passing interest at the expense of the rest; and subjection of the Encyclopedia to the fate of so many works of controversy. When catholics and protestants, weary of disputes and surfeited with insults, opted for silence and calm, piles of famous books disappeared and were forgotten, as one watches the sediment of an abating fermentation settle to the bottom of a vessel.

Such are the principal thoughts that came to my mind with regard to the project of a universal and analytical dictionary of human knowledge; its possibility, its purpose, its materials, the general and particular ordering of those materials, the style, method, references, nomenclature, the manuscript, the authors, the censors, the editors, and the typographer.

If the importance of these objects be weighed, it will easily be seen that each could supply the matter of a very long discourse, that I have left more things to be said than I have said, and that prolixity and adulation will perhaps not be among the defects of which I may be accused.


1. De augmentis scientiarum : see note 80 below: "As for the impossibility, I take it for granted that those works are possible which may be accomplished by some person, though not by every one; which may be done by many, though not by one; which may be completed in the succession of ages, though not within the hourglass of one man's life; and which may be reached by public effort, though not by private endeavor." (Book I, ch. 2).

2. A famous academy established in Florence in order to perfect the Tuscan language (see article Tuscan language).

3. Contemporary dictionaries list vocabulaire as a synomyn of dictionnaire , but more formal and old-fashioned. Diderot uses both the words vocabulaire and dictionnaire , usually reserving the former for a relatively straightforward lexicon; he never uses vocabulaire to refer to the Encyclopedia .

4. The principal formal project of the French Academy was its dictionary: the first was published in 1694, the second and third in 1718 and 1740.

5. An echo of the subtitle of the Encyclopedia: dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. The term raisonné is very important in this article, and has been translated as analytical , but it can also be understood in some contexts as meaning reasoned or logical .

6. The term universel , often used by Diderot in this article, has been translated universal , but in many contexts it does not refer to the world (or still less universe) as a whole, as does the English universal , and is best understood as global or general .

7. The article Hypostase refers the reader to the Dictionnaire de Trévoux .

8. Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan (1678-1771), physicist, astronomer, and writer.

9. This is, among other things, a way of distancing the Encyclopedia from its original model, Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia of 1728.

10. Diderot frequently uses the word objet in this way, indicating a subject of study, focus, or objective.

11. Etymologically, "discoverer."

12. The annual Mémoires de l'Académie .

13. Of the Royal Society of London.

14. Acta Academiae Naturae Curiosorum (full title beginning in 1757: Nova Acta physico-medica Academiae Caesareae Leopoldino-Carolinae Naturae Curiosorum ), published in Nuremberg from 1670.

15. There are forty members in the French Academy.

16. The prospectus of 1750 called for ten volumes of text and two of engravings. By the time it was completed there were to be seventeen volumes of text plus eleven of illustrations.

17. Probably an allusion to La Fontaine's L'Enfant et le maître d’école ( Fables , book I, no. 19) about a schoolmaster who is better at scolding than helping: "En toute affaire ils ne sont que songer / Aux moyens d’exercer leur langue. / Hé! mon ami, tire-moi de danger, / Tu feras après ta harangue." The word "revolution" occurs frequently in this essay, but never with a political meaning.

18. 1751, with the publication of vol. I, or perhaps the time when the work began in earnest, around 1747.

19. That is, rational philosophy, scientific thinking.

20. Diderot is taking aim at some of the proudest genres of the previous century, for example epic and tragedy.

21. Comedy, for instance: Diderot was a leading proponent of the new middle genre or drame .

22. An allusion to the likes of Bacon and Descartes, confirmed by D'Alembert's Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia .

23. Pierre Bayle, who published his Dictionnaire historique et critique in 1697, helped create a school of philosophical and theological criticism.

24. Charles Perrault, author of Contes de ma mère l'oie (Mother Goose Tales) and also of Parallèles des Anciens et des Modernes .

25. Nicolas Boindin (1676-1751), man of letters and well-known atheist, member of the Academy of Inscriptions.

26. Harmonic.

27. Author of Roman Antiquities , died in Rome circa 7 B.C.

28. The first three words of the Iliad and of the Aeneid.

29. There is a famous passage in act II of Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme which mocks the title character for his discovery of the rudiments of spelling from his master of philosophy. The allusion to Montaigne relates to "De l' experience"( Essais , III, 13): “Diogenes, rencontrant un enfant qui mangeoit ainsin [gouluement], en donna un soufflet á son precepteur.”

30. Jacob Pereire (1715–1780) developed a sign system for teaching the deaf mute d'Étavigny and following accolades at the Academy of Sciences in 1749 was pensioned by Louis XV in 1751.

31. Vaucanson's mechanical robots or automatons were much admired at this time.

32. See note 26.

33. Consonantal y , called a yod in linguistics.

34. Grammaire générale et raisonnée (1660) was the title of a famous treatise on language (also called La Grammaire de Port-Royal ) by Antoine Arnaud and Claude Lancelot. Charles Pinot Duclos, an Academician who wrote three articles for the Encyclopedia , published his Remarques sur la Grammaire générale et raisonnée in 1754.

35. I.e., tonic accent, essentially absent in French.

36. Here the word caractère seems to mean something like phoneme .

37. I.e., phonetic alphabet.

38. We might say "connotations."

39. Author of Les Synonymes français , 1736.

40. The first dictionary was organized etymologically, with compound words listed under the root word rather than in their alphabetical position.

41. Reference to César Chesnau Dumarsais (1676-1756), author of the famous Traité des tropes ; but he was to die in 1756 and his articles never got beyond the letter G.

42. The architectural orders, in the Greek tradition.

43. This might be called the nominalist view, held notably, in the natural sciences, by Buffon, who did not have much confidence in the notion of species.

44. The Prospectus for the Encyclopedia , written by Diderot, was published in 1750.

45. I.e., natural history, as the science of nature was then called.

46. Diderot does not distinguish between artist and artisan, but here and often elsewhere artiste denotes the craftsman.

47. The article in question indeed bears Diderot's signature asterisk. About the time he wrote this, he was beginning to take a keen interest in painting and in 1759 he began a long series of reviews of the biennial art exhibitions known as Salons .

48. The Dictionary of the French Academy (1762) gives this definition: "A sort of jealousy which incites one to equal or surpass someone or something praiseworthy." Further along Diderot gives the word a much more positive meaning.

49. Renvois : the term references used in the translations is to be understood as cross-references.

50. Reference to the Encyclopedia 's model, the Cyclopédia of Ephraim Chambers, first published in 1728.

51. Pensées sur l'interprétation de la nature was published in 1753.

52. Co-editor with Diderot of the Encyclopedia through its first seven volumes, d'Alembert was a renowned mathematician and astronomer.

53. The article Bas includes a highly detailed (and amply illustrated) description of the machine for making hosiery.

54. This speculation doubtless flows from Diderot's own composition of the article Printer's Characters.

55. Not only had Jean-Jacques Rousseau invented a system of musical notation which he had proposed to the Académie des Sciences, he also furnished many articles on musical subjects to the Encyclopedia from which he would later compile his Dictionnaire de musique .

56. "Who feign seriousness and live in debauchery."

57. Roman satiric poet.

58. George Buchanan (1506–1582), Scottish humanist.

59. Diderot had translated Robert James's A Medicinal Dictionary (1743–1745).

60. The London Merchant (1731), by George Lillo, was translated into French in 1748 and was much admired by Diderot.

61. A metaphor based on the coloration skills of a painter.

62. For Chambers, see note 7 above. Johann Alsted was the German author of an Encyclopedia in two volumes published in 1630.

63. Agostino Ramelli (1531-ca. 1600), Diverse et Artificiose Machine (Paris, 1588).

64. The title seems to coincide with Tieleman Van Der Horst's Théâtre universel des machines, ou Recueil choisi de divers grands et beaux ouvrages construits dans l'eau published in Amsterdam in 1739, but the name Lupold has not been identified.

65. Machines et inventions approuvées par l'Académie royale , 6 vol. (1735).

66. Voltaire indeed became a contributor in this fifth volume of the Encyclopedia , his first article being Elegance; but in fact all his contributions are limited to the volumes covering E to I .

67. Montesquieu had died early in 1755.

68. This reference is to Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788); but this promise was not kept, and Jaucourt stepped in for all the articles having to do with painting.

69. The famous illustrator Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790). He did not write the article, but was later to furnish (after the fact) the Encyclopedia 's frontispiece, and other illustrations for the article Drawing.

70. That of Alsted: see note 62.

71. Collection académique composée des mémoires, actes ou journaux des plus célébres Académies et Sociétés littéraires étrangéres , founded by Jean Berryat, began publication in 1755; the discours préliminaire was by Philippe Guéneau de Montbeillard.

72. That of Buffon, beginning in 1749.

73. John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690); Charles Duclos, Considérations sur les moeurs (1750); and (perhaps) David Gregory, Elements of Astronomy (1715).

74. Repères .

75. L'Avare , a comedy by Moliére.

76. Perhaps Paul Pellisson-Fontanier, author of Relation contenant l'histoire de l'Académie françoise (1672) and Histoire de Louis XIV, depuis la mort du cardinal Mazarin en 1661, jusqu'á la paix de Nimègue en 1678 (1749).

77. The "partisan bias" ( esprit de parti ) mentioned suggests that Diderot may be referring to the Nouvelles écclesiastiques , a Jansenist paper hostile to the Encyclopedia , directed by Jacques Fontaine de la Roche.

78. Pierre Guyot Desfontaines (1685-1745), journalist and writer known for harassing Voltaire with particular vigor.

79. An Ephesian who, in order to immortalize his name, burned the temple of Diana in 356 B.C.

80. Greek rhetorician, fourth century B.C., called the "scourge of Homer."

81. Two fashion terms each of which indeed has a brief article in the Encyclopedia . Falbala is one of only two articles thought to be by a woman, Suzanne Marie de Vivens, marquise de Jaucourt.

82. Royal tax collectors

83. I.e., a fictive account.

84. Certain industries, particular mirror-making and tapestry weaving, were royal monopolies.

85. Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle (1657-1757), author notably of Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes and long secretary of the Academy of Sciences.

86. Montesquieu, L'Esprit des lois , 1748; George-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle générale et particulière (1749-1804).

87. Francis Bacon, who is praised at length in d'Alembert's "Preliminary Discourse." Three of his writings are named further on: the Novum Organum (1620), Cogitate et visa (1607), and De augmentis scientiarum (a Latin translation of The Advancement of Learning , 1623). Bacon’s work underlies a good part of Diderot’s Pensées sur l’interprétation de la nature (1753).

88. General things, specifically, specific things, generally.

89. The philosopher is perhaps Montesquieu; the poet can only be Voltaire.

90. Dictionnaire historique et critique , 1697.

91. Satyricon , 2: "A noble, and so to say chaste, style is not tainted or turgid, but is dignified by its natural beauty."

92. A traditional philosophical concept recognizing two levels of truth, one for the vulgar reader and another for the initiate.

93. A tacit permission delivered no certificate of authorization but assured the publisher that the police would not seize the edition or prevent its sale. Such a permission did have a quasi-official status: there was a register kept of them.

94. Jacques-Bénigne Winslow (1669–1760), author of Exposition anatomique de la structure du corps humain .

95. Athenian philosopher (fifth century B.C.).

96. He is probably alluding to the Dictionnaire de Trévoux , a Jesuit publication much opposed to the Encyclopedia .

97. He likely is worried that the Society of Jesus might later inherit the enterprise; in fact, the order was to be expelled from France just a few years later, in 1762.