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Diderot's Encyclopedia

A seed of the Enlightenment

We take encyclopedias for granted. Before Wikipedia, there was Encyclopedia Britannica, if you could afford it. And dozens of others, at every price point... and of every quality.

It was not always thus. One of the first to say "Let's get experts to tell us about their subjects, organize it all into a book" was the Frenchman Denis Diderot (1713 - 1784). Diderot's encyclopedia... according to its grandchild, Wikipedia (the link will open in a new tab or window).

This page starts with just a few bits from one article, that on "Balancier", i.e. the makers of scales and balances for weighing things... a pretty fundamental tool of science, and commerce.

Below that, a tiny sample of the 42 plates about clock-making. Each is 33 x 21 cm to the borders on them. Many were on the mechanisms of different time-pieces, but also many were about the watch-maker's tools!

By the way... if this material is as attractive to you as it was to me, go along to Henry Sotheran's (Antiquarian Booksellers) website, put "Diderot" into the search box, and you will find, at the moment (12 Jun 21) 112 selections of pages from an incomplete disbound copy of the encyclopedia available to you. Sotheran's is the longest established bookseller in the world, and was a great help to me when I started learning about old books, and remain my main source to this day. They do ship, and the Diderot is very "mail friendly"!

I once saw a complete Diderot, in good condition. It was... words fail me.

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And here's a bit of the accompanying text. If anyone can provide a translation (out of the goodness of their heart), I'd be grateful to have it, in an email... and I will include credit and a plug (within reason) for your website, etc.

Did I mention? If this material is attractive, go along to Henry Sotheran's (Antiquarian Booksellers) website, put "Diderot" into the search box. Sotheran's is the longest established bookseller in the world, and they do ship!

Speaking of "attractive"...

The images here only hint at the real things. The paper, the crispness of the printing, etc, etc. They are glorious, "in the cellulose".

The sample from the section on clock-making...


That's one of the 42 plates.... and then there are the 47 pages of text to go with them.

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