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Notes to Part III

1. These revisions were considerable in some places. A few sections were deleted because they repeated something that had appeared earlier in the Discourse, and there were several additions and clarifications, largely in answer to criticisms that had been made by the Journal de Trévoux. Except for minor changes of a word or phrase, we have indicated all departures from the original version as printed in Diderot’s Oeuvres, ed. Assézat and Tourneux (Paris, 1876), XIII, 129 ff. Two short paragraphs from the original were deleted at the very beginning of the version appearing in the Discourse. The first, probably by the publishers, claimed falsely that the work being announced was already finished and ready to be printed. The second, by Diderot, merely announced that he intended to describe the nature of the Encyclopedia and how it was composed.

2. The sections enclosed in brackets were not in the original Prospectus. It is impossible to determine with certainty whether d’Alembert composed the added paragraphs or whether both he and Diderot did.

3. The French scholar Moréri published an historical and biographical dictionary in 1674. Although it was filled with errors as well as useful information, it went through a multitude of revisions and editions, and continued to be a popular work of reference through the middle of the eighteenth century.

4. The reference here is to the spate of popular works in the eighteenth century designed to make the essentials of some art or science understandable to the interested amateur. In their titles they commonly had phrases such as “Method for,” “Elements of,” “Library of” and “Abridgment of.” The philosophes considered one of their most honorable functions was to popularize certain progressive ideas, and they did not sneer at “popular” works.

5. Following this line a paragraph of the original is deleted. It states the intention of the encyclopedists to describe and show the significance of the interdependence of the branches of knowledge and to trace the history of the efforts of the human mind. ( Oeuvres, XIII, 130.)

6. Leibniz had called for a revision and improvement of the Latin encyclopedia of Alsted of 1630. See Louis de Jaucourt, Vie de Mr. Leibnitz, at the beginning of Leibniz’s Theodicée (Amsterdam, 1734), I, 42.

7. Dialectics is defined in the Encyclopedia (IV, 934), as the art of reasoning and of carrying on a disputation with precision.

8. “Descartes, Boyle, Huyghens, Newton, Leibniz, les Bernoulli, Locke, Bayle, Pascal, Corneille, Racine, Bourdaloue, Bossuet, etc.” are listed in the original Prospectus (1750), in Oeuvres, XIII, 131. It is interesting to observe that d’Alembert completely ignores the most direct spiritual precursor of the encyclopedists. Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), the great Huguenot controversialist and scholar of the late seventeenth century, whose Historical and Critical Dictionary of 1697 served in many ways as a foundation of the Enlightenment and was certainly a continual inspiration for the encyclopedists. One may speculate that Bayle was considered too obviously heterodox to be mentioned in the introduction for the Encyclopedia.

9. Ephraim Chambers, Cyclopaedia or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (2 vols.; London, 1728, and numerous subsequent editions).

10. A sentence is left out here from the original, stating that a work so imperfect for all readers and containing so little new information for French readers would not have been well received in France. ( Oeuvres, XIII, 132.)

11. A phrase is deleted from the original at this point, stating that the general arrangement of Chambers is the only thing that is common to both that work and the Encyclopedia. (Oevres, XIII, 133). This phrase was probably left out because it could be demonstrated that many of the articles of the Encyclopedia were copied directly from the work of Chambers, following a practice that was universal in the compilation of works of this nature in the eighteenth century.

12. Journal de Trévoux, May, 1745. D’Alembert reproduced these praises in the Editors' Preface to the third volume of the Encyclopedia, pp. iv-v, where he attempted to refute the major attacks made by the Journal de Trévoux on the work. He pointed out the inconsistency of the journal’s attacks by calling attention to its earlier enthusiasm for an encyclopedic project.

13. Three paragraphs, with the exception of one sentence, are deleted here from the original. They describe the tree of knowledge, the debt to Bacon, the foundation of the encyclopedic system in the nature of our knowledge—all of which are treated in considerable detail earlier in the Discourse.

14. This sentence is somewhat changed from the original. The following sentence is deleted: “He who claims to know all only shows that he does not know the limits of the human mind.” ( Oeuvres, XIII, 134.)

15. A few phrases are deleted here from the original, concerning the type of people competent to do certain types of articles. ( Oevres, XIII, 135.)

16. This admission demonstrates how much Diderot and d’Alembert were committed to the form of the Encyclopedia as it was determined before they became editors.

17. This last sentence was deleted from later editions.

18. See Le Gras, Diderot et l’Encyclopédie, and Wilson, Diderot, pp. 73 ff., for the history of the Encyclopedia before Diderot and d’Alembert took over the leadership of the project. Originally in 1745 it was intended to be a mere translation of the Chambers work with some corrections and additions. This project was announced in a Prospectus in the year 1745 and highly praised by the Journal de Trévoux. There followed a complicated and sometimes humorous sequence of difficulties and changes of direction before Diderot at last assumed its editorship.

19. The asterisk was the sign of attribution for Diderot as editor in the body of the Encyclopedia. This promise was not consistently carried through, especially in the last ten volumes of the text, which were published secretly.

20. D’Alembert’s articles were models of the kind of scholarly scrupulousness described here. A fine example is the article “Air.” Unfortunately, the other encyclopedists, including Diderot, did not always approximate these standards in their articles, as the enemies of the work were quick to point out.

21. D’Alembert is doubtless the author of this passage.

22. For a lucid and philosophical expansion of this subject, see d’Alembert’s major article “Elements of the Sciences,” Encyclopédie, V, 491 ff.

23. Jean Formey (1711–1797), a French Huguenot scholar, son of refugees from the persecutions of the French monarchy after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, is a good example of the very important part played by the Huguenots in the background of the Enlightenment and of the Encyclopedia specifically. They were journalists, dictionary-makers, popularizers, reformers, and transmitters of ideas from England and the Low Countries. Bayle could be considered the spiritual father of the Encyclopedia in many respects. The chevalier de Jaucourt, a Huguenot nobleman who made the completion of the work possible by writing single-handedly approximately one-fourth of the articles, served as a bridge from the scholars of the Huguenot Dispersion to the heart of the Encyclopedia.

24. Du Marsais (1676–1756), a liberal scholar who was considered the foremost grammarian in his time, was the author of the articles on grammar in the first volume. He was alleged to be the author of the important article “Philosopher,” but this has been seriously questioned. See H. Dieckmann, Le Philosophe (Saint Louis, 1948). He died while the Encyclopedia was still coming out, and there is a eulogy to him by d’Alembert at the beginning of volume VII. His work for the Encyclopedia was continued by his disciples, Douchet and Beauzée.

25. The works to which Diderot refers are most probably John Harris (1667?–1719), Lexicon technicum, or an Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (2 vols.; London, 1736), fifth edition; Thomas Corneille (1625–1709), Le Dictionnaire des arts et des sciences (2 vols.; Paris, 1731); and Jacques Savary-Desbruslons, Dictionnaire universal de commerce (3 vols.; Paris, 1723–1730). I am indebted to Professor Jacques Proust for his advice on this question. His article “La Documentation technique de Diderot dans l’ Encyclopédie,” Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France, LVII (1957), 335–52, has the most complete bibliography of sources for Diderot’s technical articles. Charles C. Gillispie has published a splendid selection of the plates under the title, A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry (2 vols.; New York, 1959).

26. Diderot, himself son of an artisan, knew how to converse with workingmen, and he had a real fascination with the operations of all the crafts. He did most of the arduous work of assembling the notable articles on the arts and crafts.

27. Ultimately there were eleven folio volumes of plates published from 1762 to 1772, and a supplementary volume published in 1777. These splendid folio volumes of plates make up one of the most valuable parts of the Encyclopedia. They are the best representations of the crafts and techniques that we have from the eighteenth century and, indeed, of all parts of the economy and daily life of the Old Régime. Apparently a substantial share of the plates on the mechanical arts were copied from or based upon designs that had been made by Réaumur for the Académie des Sciences and acquired in a questionable manner for the Encyclopedia. See Jacques Proust, “La Documentation technique de Diderot dans l’ Encyclopédie, ” cited in n. 25, p. 122.

28. A very considerable deletion was made here from the original of the following phrase in capital letters: “mais A LA POSTÉRITÉ ET À L’ÊTRE QUI NE MEURT POINT” (To Posterity and to the Being who never dies). The function of the future generations was to perfect and clarify even more the encyclopedic connection of all knowledge. The Encyclopedia was but one step in the portentous and continuous encyclopedic effort which would only be achieved by posterity.

29. This is the end of the section based on the Prospectus of Diderot.

30. The list of contributors that follows is only for the first volume. It is included with a minimum of notes, chiefly to provide some notion of the range and character of the contributions to the Encyclopedia, and because it was part of the original Preliminary Discourse. A number of those who appear here either died or disappeared for some other reason from the company of encyclopedists. As enthusiasm built up for the work, however, more and more contributors volunteered their services. Some were eminent writers like Voltaire; others were merely interested scholars from a variety of walks of life who contributed sometimes only one article, sometimes several, on the subjects of their special interest. The total number of contributors rose to nearly two hundred before the seventeen original volumes of the text were completed. The most thorough list of them appears in K. Takeo, et al., “Les Collaborateurs de l’ Encyclopédie, ” in Zinbun, no. 1 (Kyoto University, 1957), but that is still not exhaustive.

31. The errata section of volume II of the Encyclopedia, pp. iii-iv, states that this phrase should be deleted, since the article was not written by Yvon but taken from a Jesuit work.

32. See the Introduction for mention of the intriguing relationship between the Preliminary Discourse and the heretical thesis of the abbé de Prades, defended at the Sorbonne on November 18, 1751, several months following the appearance of the first volume of the Encyclopedia. Rumors passed about that Diderot or d’Alembert had written the thesis, or at least inspired it—there were passages in it directly from the Discourse —and this statement about a forthcoming theological work of Yvon and de Prades seemed to be damning evidence that the editors had some part in it. D’Alembert claimed to have had nothing to do with it in the Editors' Preface to volume III, p. i.

33. The “Editors' Preface” of volume II of the Encyclopedia, p. ii, corrects this passage. Blondel did only the plates of this work; the edition itself was by M. Mariette.

34. Diderot published the article Art early in 1751, along with a pamphlet in response to the unkind implications of the Journal de Trévoux, which had just commented upon the Prospectus.