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ASC exhibits 18th-century groundbreaking encyclopedia

by Janene Zaccone, communications and marketing last modified Oct 03, 2013 03:28 PM

Before Wikipedia, there was “Encyclopédie”—a 35-volume work published between 1751 and 1780 that told people everything from how to print playing cards to how to manufacture a gun and perform surgery.

ASC exhibits 18th-century groundbreaking encyclopedia

Anatomie is one topic that Diderot tacked in volume one of his "Encyclopédie."

Archives and Special Collections has dipped into its collection and exhibited more than 20 volumes of the 35-volume first folio edition to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Denis Diderot, French thinker and principal “Encyclopédie” compiler and editor.

The exhibit will run through Oct.22 in the Kain Rare Books Gallery, lower level, Ekstrom Library.

As a leader of the French Enlightenment, Diderot was a proponent of the idea that freedom comes from a person’s ability to think for him or herself. “Encyclopédie” was his attempt to record all existing knowledge toward that end.

The monumental work reflected the excitement that people felt during the 18th century as “they celebrated human intellect, rationality and achievement,” said Rare Books Curator Delinda Buie. Before this time, she explained, people attributed everything to the grace of God.

In conjunction with the exhibit, ASC will bring together UofL faculty from several disciplines for a celebration of Diderot Oct. 4 starting at 1 p.m. Here's the schedule:

  • 1 p.m. “High above this vast labyrinth”: the ‘Encyclopédie’ at a glance.
    An illustrated talk by Glynis Ridley, professor and chair, English, Collaborative Learning Center (CLC), Room 117A, Ekstrom Library
  • 2 p.m. Coffee and birthday cake, lower level lobby adjoining Kain and Pennington Galleries, Ekstrom Library
  • 3 p.m. ‘Encyclopédie’: a colloquium, CLC, Room 117A, Ekstrom Library:
    • “The Swiss influence and contributions to ‘Encyclopédie’,” Bonnibeth Beale Fonseca-Greber, assistant professor, French
    • “Chasing the Troubadours in the ‘Encyclopédie’,” Wendy Pfeffer, professor, French
    • “Friendship, the ‘Encyclopédie’ and Diderot,” Wendy Carson Yoder, assistant professor, French
    • “Mechanical computation in Diderot’s day,” Jake Wildstrom, assistant professor, mathematics

Admission to both the exhibit and the colloquium is free and open to the public.

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