During the 18th century, Europe went through an intellectual transformation, with new ideas on the rise and old ideas on the decline. This period was known as the enlightenment. The general theme of the Enlightenment was the need to subject all ideas to rigorous criticism and examination. Concepts of religion, politics, art, literature, and social organization were now being methodically analyzed on a wide scale. Although the Enlightenment took place all over Europe, it had its greatest impact in France, where it was heavily opposed by the church and by social and political conservatives.
Many brilliant and towering intellectual figures won their fame during the Enlightenment, perhaps the most famous being voltaire and Jean-Jacques rousseau. There were literally dozens of great scholars during this era, and they left their mark on the intellectual history of the Western world.
Aside from the works of Voltaire and Rousseau, the greatest literary achievement of the Enlightenment was the Encyclopedia, which came into being when many leading thinkers embarked on the ambitious project of collecting the sum total of human knowledge. Their purpose was to make the information accessible to the educated public.
The men who compiled the Encyclopedia included Denis diderot, Jean Le Rond d’alembert, Voltaire, and Rousseau. Diderot, however, dominated the writing, editing, and publication of the work, with d’Alembert as the next greatest contributor. Voltaire wrote several articles for the project and was always willing to help with advice on various matters. Rousseau wrote a few pieces on music theory but eventually became disgusted with the undertaking and withdrew. Other intellectuals who participated in creating the Encyclopedia included political philosopher Charles montesquieu, economist Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, and mathematician Antoine-Nicolas de Condorcet.
The first volume was published in 1751, and publication continued for more than 20 years. The Encyclopedia would eventually amount to 28 volumes, the final one being printed in 1772. Addendums would continue to be published until 1780.
While the amount of information and material contained within the Encyclopedia was immense, it was far from impartial, for the creators of the work held very strong opinions on the subjects about which they wrote. In terms of metaphysics, Diderot and his allies were strongly committed to the beliefs of the English philosopher John locke, dismissing the ideas of those who disagreed with him. Similarly, the scientific articles held to the theories of Isaac Newton, rejecting the notions of opposing scientists. Many articles in the Encyclopedia were biased toward democratic and constitutional forms of government, and clearly hostile to religion, but the work as a whole revealed a philosophical tolerance unusual in its day.
From the beginning, the Encyclopedia encountered fierce opposition from religious and political authorities, who attempted to suppress the entire work. Most European states had well-funded government departments whose job it was to prevent works considered harmful or dangerous from reaching the public. This was particularly true in France, where the Encyclopedia was published.
Religious authorities despised the creators of the Encyclopedia because of their critical evaluation of religious ideas, unflinching defense of the scientific method, and questioning of the church’s role in social and political spheres. Political authorities opposed the Encyclopedia because it questioned the validity of absolute monarchy and called for a less cruel and severe legal system. In short, the authorities disliked and distrusted the Encyclopedia because it challenged the status quo and tried to tell the people that the way things were was not the way they had to be.
The first official reaction came in 1752, after the publication of the first two volumes. The censors decreed that the volumes be banned; nevertheless, publication continued. In 1759 the French authorities decreed that the Encyclopedia as a whole was banned, and all sale and publication of it were forbidden. Despite this, Diderot and his allies bravely carried on with the work in secret. They continued to write the articles and print the volumes, working clandestinely and trying to hide their activities from the censors. The efforts of the French government to repress the work only added to its popularity.
The Encyclopedia was one of the great achievements of the 18th century. Diderot and his collaborators had created a masterly work, immense in its scope and radical in its implications. They did so in the face of difficult and dangerous obstacles, giving the people of Europe a great gift of knowledge. In summary, the work of the encyclopedists was a monument to the Enlightenment itself.
Alembert, Jean le Rond d’. Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot. Translated by Richard N. Schwab. Indianapolis, Ind. Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.
Diderot, Denis. A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industry. Edited by Charles C. Gillispie. Mineola, N.Y. Dover, 1994.
Russell, Terence M. and Ann Thornton, eds. Gardens and Landscapes in the Encyclopedie of Diderot and d’Alembert: The Letterpress Articles and Selected Engravings. Aldershot, Hampshire, U.K. Ashgate Publishing, 1999.
Darnton, Robert. The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopedia, 1775-1800. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1979.
Lough, John. Essays on the Encyclopedie of Diderot and D’Alembert. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.
Werner, Stephen. Blueprint: A Study of Diderot and the “Encyclopedie” Plates. Birmingham, Ala. Summa Publications, 1993.
Wow! What a picture!
Illustrations from Encyclopédie (vol.3)
863 jpg, pdf | up to 6375*9334 | 485 Mb
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopaedia or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts) was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and, until 1759, co-edited by Jean le Rond d'Alembert. As of 1750, the full title was Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres, mis en ordre par M. Diderot de l'Académie des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, et quant à la partie mathématique, par M. d'Alembert de l'Académie royale des Sciences de Paris, de celle de Prusse et de la Société royale de Londres. ("Encyclopedia: or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts, by a Company of Men of Letters, arranged by M. Diderot of the Academy of Sciences and Belles-lettres of Prussia: as to the Mathematical Portion, arranged by M. d'Alembert of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris, to the Academy of Sciences in Prussia and to the Royal Society of London.") The title page was amended as D'Alembert acquired more titles.
The Encyclopédie was an innovative encyclopedia in several respects. Among other things, it was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many named contributors, and it was the first general encyclopedia to lavish attention on the mechanical arts. Still, the Encyclopédie is famous above all for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article "Encyclopédie", the Encyclopédie's aim was "to change the way people think". He wanted to incorporate all of the world's knowledge into the Encyclopédie and hoped that the text could disseminate all this information to the public and future generations.
Illustrations from Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (vol.3)
the French encyclopedia that represents the greatest monument of French Enlightenment science and culture in the 18th century. The Encyclopédie was published in 35 volumes between 1751 and 1780. The basic edition consists of 17 volumes of text (60,000 articles) and 11 volumes of engravings illustrating the text. Four volumes of supplementary text and an additional volume of illustrations were published in 1776–77, and a two-volume index in 1780.
The publication of the Encyclopédie was initially undertaken by the Paris book publisher A. Le Breton. D. Diderot played the major role in the project; he was the organizer and editor in chief of the encyclopedia as well as author of the prospectus and of most of the articles on the exact sciences. D’Alembert was assistant editor until 1758. Contributing writers included P. Holbach, Voltaire, J.-F. Marmontel, J.-J. Rousseau, A. Turgot, and Montesquieu.
The historical significance of the Encyclopédie consists in its having laid the ideological groundwork for the French Revolution; the content of the articles, which combined excellence of style and readability, was directed against the French feudal order. The readership of the Encyclopédie was quite large for that time, consisting of close to 4,000 subscribers. New editions were published in Lucca (1758–76), Geneva (1778–79), and Lausanne (1778–81). Complete or partial translations of articles from the original edition were published in many different countries.
Link to this page:
On display is a Volume 5 of Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie, published in 1755. In this almost comical passage written by Diderot (1713–1784) in the section under Philosophy, Diderot attacks the satiric genre for its inherent inadequacies and literary limitations over time.
I detest satires in a book a hundred times more than I favor praise: personal attacks are odious in any kind of writing; you are sure to amuse most people when you make a point of feeding their mean spirit. The tone of satire is most out of place in a dictionary, and a satirical dictionary, the only kind we lack, would be the most impertinent and tedious dictionary conceivable. In a great book, such offhand remarks, subtle allusions, and dainty flourishes as would make the fortune of a frivolous tale must be wholly avoided; barbs that have to be explained go stale, or soon become unintelligible. It would be quite ridiculous to require a commentary in a work of which the various sections are intended to provide reciprocal interpretation.
The Encyclopédie originated as a simple French translation of Ephraim Chamber’s Cylopaedia by Jean Le Rond d’Alembert. It eventually became an instrument of radical and revolutionary thought when Denis Diderot joined d’Alembert as chief co-editor and contributor. The Encyclopédie is considered the most influential encyclopedia when it was published. It was written over a twenty-year period and was organized using an alphabetical arrangement. The complete set is comprised of 72,000 entries contained in 35 volumes, including 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates, primarily dedicated to technological illustrations. Over 100 authors contributed to the set, including well-known authors such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau. At various times throughout its publication history, the Encyclopédie was politically censored and written in secret, contributing to its popularity and widespread circulation.
This is the Geneva Quarto Edition of the Diderot d’Alembert encyclopedia, with all 36 text volumes in beautiful leather spines, embossed in 3 parts, and orange and brown cardboard. Some volumes are slightly rubbed but the overall condition is very good. One book has the orange spine label torn.
The encyclopedia is not only well known for its many authors – among which Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, but for its controversial history.
Some restorations are done over 10 of the affected volumes.
The two plates of the authors were made by Charles-Nicholas Cochin (1715-1790).
Two volumes – – missing the both title pages
This is a very important and rare edition. On international shops it is selling with over 18 000 euro. The first edition of this encyclopedia can be found at over 80 000 euro.
Tome seizieme –missing the second title page
Tome vingtieme – the two title pages are switched.
Tome XXIV – has a missing ending. The volume is ending with PAU, the next volume is starting with PLA.
Tome trentieme – the last leaf has missing text as displayed in the picture.
Tome XXXV – has a corroded lower corner over several pages, but the text is not affected.
Tome trente-sixieme – last volume, has a major stain over the first few pages.
Title page from vol. 1 of the Encyclopedie
The Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers is a 28-volume monument to the French Enlightenment. combining a wealth of information about all aspects of human thought and achievement with a subversive attack on the stifling old regime of religion, classical tradition, and superstition. Many hands contributed to the Encyclopedie. but the man most responsible was Denis Diderot, whose recent 300th anniversary was marked by a renewed interest in his life and work.
The Encyclopédie was first conceived as fairly simple moneymaking venture. In 1745 printer/bookseller Andre-Francois Le Breton enlisted three other partners in a project to produce a French translation of Englishman Ephraim Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences . The two-volume Cyclopaedia. one of the first modern encyclopedias, had been a strong seller in England, and Le Breton saw a niche in the French market. But the first translator he hired proved incompetent, so he turned the project over to two young rising stars of the 18th century French philosophes . Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert .
From the outset, Diderot and d’Alembert saw the Encyclopédie project as an opportunity to set out their iconoclastic ideas on a grand scale. D’Alembert’s introduction, the Preliminary Discourse, has often been called a manifesto for the French Enlightenment. It reads in part:
The work whose first volume we are presenting today has two aims. As an Encyclopedia, it is to set forth as well as possible the order and connection of the parts of human knowledge. As a Reasoned Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades, it is to contain the general principles that form the basis of each science and each art, liberal or mechanical, and the most essential facts that make up the body and substance of each. These two points of view, the one of an Encyclopedia and the other of a Reasoned Dictionary, will thus constitute the basis for the outline and division of our Preliminary Discourse. We are going to introduce them, deal with them one after another, and give an account of the means by which we have tried to satisfy this double object.
If one reflects somewhat upon the connection that discoveries have with one another, it is readily apparent that the sciences and the arts are mutually supporting, and that consequently there is a chain that binds them together. But, if it is often difficult to reduce each particular science or art to a small number of rules or general notions, it is no less difficult to encompass the infinitely varied branches of human knowledge in a truly unified system.
Frontispiece from vol. 1 of the Encyclopedie
Diderot and d’Alembert attempted nonetheless to offer a unified vision of human knowledge. The engraved frontispiece for Volume I set out the basic ideas in visual form: the personification of Truth is illuminated in her temple, with her handmaidens Reason and Philosophy at her side. Theology is relegated to a subordinate position at Truth’s feet, and other branches of the arts, sciences, and trades fill out the scene.
Explanation of the symbolism in the Encyclopedie frontispiece
A later volume includes a large folded engraving of a “Tree of Knowledge” representing a taxonomy of human knowledge. Following the ideas first set forth by Francis Bacon. the Encyclopédie ’s tree has as its three main branches Memory, Reason, and Imagination.
Tree of Life fold-out frontispiece from the first Table Analytique volume of the Encyclopedie
Diderot was the general editor for the project, and he and d’Alembert wrote many of the articles themselves. But Diderot also enlisted many other authors, including Louis de Jaucourt, Baron d’Holbach, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Some of the contributors to the Encyclopedie
The first edition of the Encyclopédie was offered for sale by subscription, a common practice for expensive works at this time. Originally conceived as a work of just a few volumes, the Encyclopédie quickly grew into a massive undertaking. The first two volumes of text appeared in 1751. Fifteen more text volumes followed over the next several years. Over 2500 engraved illustrations were also published in eleven volumes separate from the text. Subscribers did not receive the last volume until 1772, and the cost was far greater than had originally been proposed. But the readership was undaunted: as the publication process progressed, the number of subscribers increased from 2000 to over 4000.
18th century printing press in action
The large folio volumes of the first edition were printed by at least four Paris printing houses. Illustrations in the Imprimerie section of the Encyclopédie itself illustrate the process by which the volumes were constructed.
Printing in the 18th century was a labor-intensive process. Compositors set each letter by hand; pressmen printed sheets one at a time. Binding was a completely separate process. It is estimated that a single volume of the Encyclopédie took nearly five months to produce, even with four or five compositors and twenty pressmen on the job.
18th century French printing type cases
Not surprisingly, the Encyclopedists often ran into trouble with the civil and religious authorities in 18th century France. Printing and selling of books was tightly controlled: one had to have an official permit from the king– called a privilege —in order to publish anything, and Diderot was constantly in danger of losing his. But the Encyclopédie project also had friends in high places. One of the officials in charge of government censorship of the press was Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, himself a proponent of Enlightenment thinking. Malesherbes made sure that the work of the Encyclopedists could continue without interference, at one point hiding Diderot’s manuscript in his own home while government officials searched Diderot’s residence for subversive material.
Title page from vol. 7 of the Encyclopedie. with Paris imprint
In 1759 the Catholic church placed the Encyclopédie on its index of prohibited books. Even though French officials had little desire to interfere with what was by this time a very profitable enterprise, they had to pay at least lip service to the Pope’s ban. Diderot’s privilege was revoked, and publication (which had reached the letter G) was temporarily halted. But with assistance from Malesherbes and others, Diderot was soon back in business, publishing the remaining volumes under the false imprint of a Swiss printer.
Title page from vol. 8 of the Encyclopedie. with false Neufchastel imprint
In the end the Encyclopédie contained over 70,000 articles on the widest imaginable range of topics. Subjects included a staunch defense of Reason (vol. 13) as the primary source of human knowledge:
No proposition can be accepted as divine revelation if it contradicts what is known to us, either by immediate intuition, as in the case of self-evident propositions, or by obvious deductions of reason. as in demonstrations.
And an equally impassioned condemnation of the Slave Trade (vol. 16):
Slave trade is the purchase of Negroes made by Europeans on the coasts of Africa, who then employ these unfortunate men as slaves in their colonies. This purchase of Negroes to reduce them into slavery is a negotiation that violates all religion, morals, natural law, and human rights.
But not all entries took on lofty subjects. An article on Werewolves (vol. 9) is decidedly skeptical:
The demonologists add that these men are not really transformed into wolves, but that the devil simply gives them that shape, or that he carries their bodies somewhere and substitutes for them the appearances of a wolf. The existence of such creatures is proven only by stories that are totally unconfirmed.
And in his entry on Chocolate (vol. 3), Diderot tries to be diplomatic on the controversial topic of whether or not to add vanilla:
The sweet scent and potent taste [vanilla] imparts to chocolate have made it highly recommended for it; but time has shown that it could potentially upset one’s stomach, and its use has decreased; some people who favor the care of their health to the pleasure of their senses, have stopped using it completely. In Spain and in Italy, chocolate prepared without vanilla has been termed the healthy chocolate ; and in our French islands in the Americas, where vanilla is neither rare nor expensive, as it can be in Europe, it is never used, when the consumption of chocolate is as high as in any other part of the world.
However, as there is still quite a large number of people who favor the use of vanilla, and as it is only fair that we should respect their feeling, we shall use vanilla in the composition of the chocolate. the one that might be the better-prepared and the best overall…. Since there are in tastes an infinite variety of opinions, everyone wants their interest to be reckoned with, and one would concede what the other refuses; and even if we were to agree on the ingredients to be mixed, it proves impossible to pinpoint dosages that would be universally accepted; and it should be deemed enough that these dosages suit the highest number of people, thus forming the trend that is most popular.
Title page from the Plates section of the Encyclopedie
More than 3000 engraved illustrations accompanied the text volumes. The plates are equally detailed and wide-ranging in subject matter. They cover everything from Shipbuilding.
to horsemanship (or lack thereof).
Volume of plates from the Encyclopedie on exhibit in ZSR Special Collections, along with artifacts from the Coy C. Carpenter Library archives
More than 4000 copies of the first edition of the Encyclopédie were printed in large folio format– a very large print run for an expensive book in the 18th century. Nearly half of the first edition went to subscribers outside of France, in other parts of Europe and North America. The Encyclopédie was reprinted in smaller, cheaper editions that proved equally popular. Many copies still exist in libraries throughout the world, providing countless readers with a direct link to the 18th century Enlightenment.
ZSR Library’s complete first edition was purchased with funds endowed by George W. Paschal, Jr.
6 Comments on ’Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, edited by Denis Diderot (1751-1780)‘
Excellent post about a fascinating work!
Texts are devices for blowing up or narcotizing pieces of information.
--Umberto Eco, "Dictionary vs. Encyclopedia," in Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language
 Within Western culture, the universe of knowledge has traditionally been imagined and constructed by the creation of lists which became encyclopedic. The origin of the term encyclopedia reverberates down halls of learning and tells us something about imagining literacy. Its modern spelling is the result of a mistaken transcription of the Greek enkukliospaideia. meaning general education, into enkuklopaideia. It is derived from encyclical. meaning general or wide circulation, and paideia. meaning education and training and is related to the root for child. Hence it came to mean "the circle of learning; a general course of instruction" and was used in English as early as 1632 in reference to the J.H. Alstedii Encyclopedia. It came into general usage in the eighteenth century in reference to the French Encyclopèdie. ou dictionnaire raisonnè des sciences, des arts et des mètiers, par une sociètè de gens de lettres 1 created by a group of scholars and scientists under the editorship of Diderot and D'Alembert, respectively a philosopher and a mathematician. Successive volumes were completed between 1751 and 1772; when fully collected, it finally comprised seventeen volumes of text and eleven volumes of plates. The Encyclopèdie provided a positivist program for human progress and was the central document of the era; Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Turgot all contributed essays.2
 Planned to mimic Bacon's classification of knowledge, it provided access to information on every conceivable subject -- religion, law, literature, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, military science, and agriculture. Implicitly empirical in its conception and execution and collecting the trades and the sciences for the first time together with the humanities, "Its purpose was to show the interconnectedness of all knowledge." It was to be a foundation onto which succeeding generations would add and "whose very existence would be a guarantee against ignorance, bigotry, and superstition (Hankins 163-170)." The Encyclopèdie was a meditation against barbarism.
 Taking Bacon's tree of knowledge as a starting point, D'Alembert was conscious of the implications and limitations of this project. D'Alembert recognized that knowledge is more effectively represented and negotiated by a map, but his encyclopedia was necessarily limited by its structure. Umberto Eco, whose theories inform this analysis, notes this in his technical discussions of dictionaries and encyclopedias. the eighteenth-century encyclopedia was not necessarily different from a tree. it. presents itself as the most economical solution with which to confront and resolve a particular problem of the reunification of knowledge. the encyclopedist knows that the tree organizes, yet impoverishes, its content, and he hopes to determine as precisely as he can the intermediary paths between the various nodes of the tree so that little by little it is transformed into a geographical chart or map. (Eco, 1984b, 82-83) D'Alembert states without equivocation that the general system of knowledge is a labyrinth, ". a torturous road which the spirit faces without knowing too much about the path to be followed." He imagines the philosopher who mediates this system to be elevated above it, but presents no justification for this claim. The encyclopedia as an impoverished world map represents local knowledges as individual nodes on an enormous theoretical map. A global vision is not possible, only various cartographical projections from various imposed perspectives. D'Alembert continues: [the]. form of the encyclopedic tree will depend on the perspective we impose on it to examine the cultural universe. One can therefore imagine as many different systems of human knowledge as there are cartographical projections(Eco, 1984b, 83). It is this tension between the encyclopedia as tree and the encyclopedia as implied theoretical map which points to alternate imaginings of literacy, alternate cultural knowledges.
 Imagining literacy often results in the manufacture of an encyclopedia of one sort or another which becomes an outline of one possible circle of learning, one local or cultural knowledge. This outline, while clearly an empirical project, defines nation and national curricula. It enables shared literacy within a defined context, simultaneously fostering dissemination of knowledge and enforcing limits on the outlines of literacy. These limits are based in culture and the ideology of culture. Indeed, encyclopedias are structurally trapped in the ideologies of their creators. Encyclopedias may be said to be controlled by the crude ideology of recognized politics and the subtle ideology of the communicative process out of which meaning is made. This is inevitable; however, it becomes the source of conflict and controversy when the outlines of nations and cultures become unstable, as they almost always are. Nation and culture are dynamic, but encyclopedias are frozen in the moment of their creation.
 Not only are encyclopedias frozen in a moment, they are also structurally trapped by the demands of listing and definition, which necessarily limits or omits overt discussion of context. But without context, meaning is obscured and understanding necessarily impeded. The paradox at the heart of the encyclopedia is that while it is created by those with expertise in a certain context whose goal is to produce a material map of a mental territory, it is sometimes the recourse of those who possess limited expertise within that context, those who are without a map. In other words, the philosophers, who D'Alembert identifies as the mediators of the encyclopedia, create a tree out of an internalized and unconscious conceptual map. This map is the result of their perspective and even their secret knowledge. The bifurcated tree that is the encyclopedia is a reduced version of a multidimensional map the philosopher of knowledge possesses but fails to adequately translate. But the tree that is the encyclopedia is often consulted by those who have no such privilege, perspective or secret knowledge.
 Those without knowledge of a specific context sometimes choose or are sometimes forced to consult the lists produced by others, but without sufficient familiarity with context, comprehension is incomplete. In short, an encyclopedic entry, appearing as it does as part of a list which is a kind of mental address for a nugget of knowledge, is a poor substitute for a map, for context, for a multidimensional system of associations. The encyclopedist attempts to transform the tree into a multidimensional map, but the encyclopedia's structure necessarily limits this. Even so, curricula and tests often are organized according to the logic of the list, not the map. Or to put it another way, an address without a map is useless to a stranger in a strange land.
 A list, comprised of single lexical items, implies, in the same way the semiotic square implies, a universe of semiosis, but semiosis is a process occurring in a matrix of associations which a list cannot trigger. The global competence of the individual triggers semiosis at the moment of interpretation at an embodied moment in a time and place. At the moment of interpretation, the individual possesses a map which represents her semantic competence in a specific context. If the implications of any single item exceed the semantic competence of the individual who is required to interpret that item, communication and comprehension suffer. The ironic goal of the encyclopedia is to provide a semiotic map by means of the construction of the list, but a list cannot supply semiosis. A list invites and sometime demands an interpretative act of semiosis by an individual. Only an individual can supply deep and broad semantic competence. No dictionary, encyclopedia or other text can supply such competence. That is, the text has limits, but these limits do not constrain the individual. The text can only supply a surface; the individual supplies depth by calling on deep semantic competence which reflects the individuals knowledge of context.
 Individuals come to encyclopedias much as Marco Polo traversed Khan's kingdom, without context but anxious to acquire it. The stranger in a strange land can acquire context, indeed does, by virtue of visiting the strange land. After a time, the newly acquired context becomes the ground upon which semiosis takes place. The encyclopedic list is replaced by a conceptual map rooted in context and experience in the strange land. This conceptual map is not two dimensional. It is multidimensional. It exceeds the representational limits of the written text. The encyclopedia's ironic goal, the transformation of the aggregate entries into a two dimensional and then multidimensional map, cannot fully succeed because the encyclopedia cannot supply the deep and broad semantic competence which enables semiosis; it cannot supply context. Multidimensional context can be experienced but not represented as a totality. The philosopher encyclopedist, an expert who creates the boundaries and selects the items for collation into a whole, creating a list, has this context; the reader often does not.
 The encyclopedia, frozen at the moment of its creation and by definition failing to supply context, has still another limitation: it is structurally limited to a local cultural representation. That is, it exists as a transitory collation of knowledge from a particular perspective. The map which the encyclopedia attempts to provide is necessarily limited to the experience of the philosopher encyclopedist, and, therefore, biased and limited. The local organization of knowledge, which the encyclopedia represents, allows for common understanding between individuals who are in the process of making meaning within a common context. Those who share overlapping maps constructed out of common experience can share information more easily. This may be stating the obvious, but what is not obvious is the difficultly of constructing maps which include multiple local knowledges. Arrogance generally has lead the encyclopedist to deny the local nature of his collection and to suppress revealing its systematic bias; it has lead the encyclopedist to declare his local collection to be global and representative of all that can be considered important. But Eco insists that structured knowledge cannot be organized as a global system in the form of an encyclopedia because any defined "circle of learning" can be contradicted by alternative and equally transitory and/or local cultural organizations (84). Encyclopedias necessarily encode the ideology of the local. This is not a fatal flaw. It is simply a limitation which must be recognized if an encyclopedic project is not to suffer from hubris.
 In contrast, to the list which becomes the encyclopedia, multidimensional maps are constructed out of experience, and this is ultimately the domain of the human interpreter. Travel across domains is possible, albeit ideology travels too.
 The universe of semiosis is the universe of human culture. But global representation of human culture is a semantic impossibility. The collection and connection of potentially infinite local maps can mediate against the ideological bias of the encyclopedia as list.
 If the global view is theory, is postulate, and is only a regulative idea that fosters the construction of the local into organized, but limited sets, the organization of these limited sets allows the isolation of a portion of the whole of human culture in order to interpret certain discourses and texts. Believing that it is possible to create a map from one of those limited sets, one of those lists, allows encyclopedists to imagine the encyclopedia to be a route to literacy. This happens because the encyclopedist is unconscious of the semantic force of his interiorized map. At each moment, he is convinced he has supplied adequate context (or he suppresses the realization that he has not). Over time, the encyclopedist has forgotten his earlier, tentative maps of knowledge, has forgotten what it means not to know. But what seems simple to the encyclopedist, the collation of lists into interrelated maps, is in fact enormously complex. The encyclopedist believes he has created an aid to understanding, but he has also created a riddle. The encyclopedia is an unconscious cryptograph. The encyclopedist has created a literacy problem by encoding his personal secret system of knowledge and implying that it is universal and therefore accessible and useful. It is the belief that the encyclopedia aids literacy, not the inherent limitations of the encyclopedia, which is the fatal mistake.
 This is E.D. Hirsch Jr.'s mistake: the idea that the list can supply the semiosis. He would deny that he means for the list to organize curricula or pedagogy, but it cannot help but do so given the history of its use and the inherent implications of its structure. The metonymic force of Bacon's tree of knowledge reaches into our present. Mass media debates about Stanford's "Culture, Ideas and Values" curriculum were illustrated by a cartoon of a contemporary tree of knowledge torn apart by agents of "multiculturalism."
 Lists can only be created and collated by those who are already adept. As prescriptions for those who are not, they have dubious value because they cannot supply semiosis. Instead they foster a crippled literacy, an awkward and tentative understanding that will only serve as a first step. The encyclopedic impulse must be contrasted with its counterpoint: the impulse to travel across local knowledges, making a map as you go, weaving a net of connections as you meander and discover.
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