General encyclopedias illuminate the culture of an era; yet, except for the first edition of the Encyclopédie, those launched from 1750 to 1800 have received far less attention than the novels, plays, poems, newspapers, and pamphlets of the period. This void in our knowledge is all the more regrettable since the compilation of encyclopedias thrived during the late eighteenth century.
In the present work a group of scholars examine eleven notable general encyclopedias of the period, paying particular attention to their publishing history, editing, prose style, political and religious views, and contents as books of knowledge. Each of these works sheds light on a specific time and place as well as the encyclopedia genre. They were published in cities and towns in France, Switzerland, Italy, Scotland, England, the United States, Germany, and Russia, and they reveal much about the intellectual, religious, political, economic, and social life of their respective regions, as well as the extent of the reception and diffusion of the Enlightenment.
The new information about these eleven encyclopedias provides the basis for an epilogue that discusses their relationship to Diderot and d’Alembert's renowned Encyclopédie and the extent of that work’s influence on the eighteenth-century encyclopedic tradition.
This book is designed as a companion to Notable Encyclopedias of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: nine predecessors of the ‘Encyclopédie’, edited by Frank A. Kafker, SVEC 194 (1981).