Add to bookbag
Title: Plagiarism
Original Title: Plagiarisme ou Plagiat
Volume and Page: Vol. 12 (1765), pp. 679–680
Author: Unknown
Translator: Elizabeth Blood [Salem State University]
Subject terms:
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

This text is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Please see for information on reproduction.

Citation (MLA): "Plagiarism." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Elizabeth Blood. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2020. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Plagiarisme ou Plagiat," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 12. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): "Plagiarism." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Elizabeth Blood. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2020. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Plagiarisme ou Plagiat," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 12:679–680 (Paris, 1765).

PLAGIARY, otherwise known as PLAGIARISM, is the act of stealing or robbing the work of another author and claiming it as one’s own work.

It is, therefore, the failure to attribute a work to its true author that characterizes plagiary . Whosoever draws on the works of earlier authors when writing, and faithfully cites them, cannot and should not be deemed guilty of this literary crime. A great distinction should be made between taking certain pieces of another author’s works and stealing them. When one uses the thoughts of another writer and punctually cites them, one is protected against any complaint of stealing: only silence and the intention of passing off what was borrowed as one’s own constitute plagiary . This was the idea of Jean-Michel Brutus, a Venetian scholar who lived in the sixteenth century and who, accused of having used the observations of Lambin regarding Cicero, wrote to Lambin saying that he too could go directly to the source, just as easily, and that he had in all truth taken but not stolen from other authors: se sumpsisse ab aliis, non verò surripuisse. sumere enim eum, qui, à quo mutuetur, indicet; et laudet quem auctorem habeat: surripere verò qui taceat, qui ex alterius industriâ fructum quaerat . See Bayle, Dictionnaire critique, letter B, the word Brutus. [1]

The same author remarked on the subject of Ephore, a Greek historian and orator, saying he had been accused of having stolen up to a thousand lines, word-for-word, from several authors. It was a very easy way to make books, and he added on that occasion: “Greek authors may have plagiarized each other, but is this not a custom in all countries and in all time periods? The church priests, do they not take each other’s writings? Is this not done every day, among Catholics and among Protestants... It was less disadvantageous for the Greeks to have stolen from each other than to have stolen foreign riches. The disadvantage is an exception to the common rule. The cavalier Marin used to say that stealing from those in your own nation was larceny; but stealing from foreigners, that was conquest: and I think he was right. We only study in order to learn, and we only learn in order to show that we have studied : these are the words of Mr. Scuderi. If I took something, he continues , from the Greek or Latin authors, I took nothing from the Italians, the Spanish or the French: seeming to me that what is study for the ancients is robbery for the moderns . La Mothe le Vayer is of the same sentiment; for this is what he says in one of his letters: “ To take from the ancients and to profit from what they have written is like being a pirate across the seas; but to steal from those in one’s own century, to appropriate their thoughts and their works, it is like being a petty thief on the Pont-Neuf .” I think that all authors can agree on this maxim: that it is better to steal from the ancients than from the moderns and that, among the latter, it is better to spare one’s compatriots than foreigners. Literary piracy has no resemblance to the piracy of ship-owners: these last believe themselves more innocent when they raid the New World than when they raid in Europe. Authors, on the contrary, equip themselves to steal much more heartily from the Old World than from the new, and they hope to be praised for the riches they seize there... All plagiarists, when they can, follow this distinction that I have described: but they do not do it out of good conscience, it is rather so that they are not recognized as such. When one steals from a modern author, it is only prudent to hide one’s larceny; but woe betide the plagiarist if there is too great a difference in quality between what he is stealing and what he is creating. The experts would say not only that he is a plagiarist, but that he is a clumsy one... You can steal in the way that certain bees do, without wrongdoing towards another , says la Mothe le Vayer, but the theft of the ant who takes the whole seed should never be imitated. ( Dictionnaire critique , letter E , the word Ephore .)

“Victorin Strigelius,” says Mr. Bayle, “had no scruples about using the thoughts and expressions of others. In that regard, it seems he condoned community property, he did not believe his actions were those of a plagiarist, and he consented to allow others to use his books as he had used those of other authors. If you find things that you like, help yourself freely, all is at your disposal,” said he. This claim clearly authorizes plagiary, if the one committing it always offers as many good things as those he borrows from others; but normally this exchange is too unequal, and the one who becomes richer by decorating his work with the spoils of others cannot of his own accord make restitution or even the slightest compensation.

Plagiarists have often been publicly unmasked. According to Thomasius, such was the case for Etienne Dolet, whose commentaries on the Latin language formed at first just one mediocre volume but swelled to two volumes in-folio at the expense of Charles Etienne, of Nizolius, of Riceius, and of Lazare Baif, which Charles Etienne revealed to the public.

Finally, M. Bayle declares that plagiary is a moral defect and a true sin, a temptation to which many authors, who are otherwise the most honest people in the world, succumb. It must be that they have some kind of false consciousness and that they think that it is less criminal to steal the product of a man’s mind than to steal his money, or to strip him of his wealth. See Bayle’s dictionary , the word Musurus .

1. “What is taken from others is not stolen, if he who takes it indicates from whom he borrows and praises the author of that work; the one who steals is silent, seeking to benefit from another’s work.” Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), Dictionnaire historique et critique, 5 th ed. (Amsterdam, 1740): 1: 687.