A 2.0 Encyclopaedia of the Enlightenment


For the first time, a critical edition of Diderot and d’Alembert's original Encyclopaedia has been published online. "Digital versions already existed but none was complete and had undergone expert evaluation, nor did they correspond to the first original edition," points out Alexandre Guilbaud, senior lecturer at the Jussieu Mathematics Institute1CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Université Paris-Diderot and co-leader of the project.

The ENCCRE2Édition Numérique Collaborative et CRitique de l’Encyclopédie (“Online Collaborative and Critical Edition of the Encyclopaedia”) project was launched six years ago and is led by the French Académie des Sciences and its d’Alembert committee. It first consisted in digitalizing the original edition kept at the Mazarine Library, in Paris. Specialists on all or part of the book, numbering 120 today, then developed an editorial policy, adding notes and comments to enrich this version. “The initial plain text is difficult to understand, particularly for members of the public,”explains Alexandre Guilbaud.

The Encyclopaedia also has a complex history. It is a militant work that was banned twice and was written over a period of more than twenty years by nearly 200 contributors. Certain articles initially planned were actually never written. “Digital methods offer new solutions,” the scientist enthuses. “We were able to create browsing tools adapted to managing linked references between articles or engraved plates and capable of flagging up these types of snags.” Work is continuing—a platform restricted to members of the project is being used to perfect new additions before including them in the public version.