The Encyclopaedia is made up of 35 volumes:
- 21 of text,
- 12 of illustrations
- and 2 of tables.
In total, it contains 72,998 articles and 2,885 illustrations!
Diderot and D'Alembert called upon the greatest specialists of the time in their domain; a total of more than 200 contributors. The first historian of the sciences, Diderot used the Encyclopaedia to fight against corporatism, traditions and secrets. Only personal merit counted for him. This "universal and well-reasoned dictionary" would allow for knowledge to be put within reach of a greater number of people...
Diderot's vision for the Encyclopaedia was for one that include illustrations. Furthermore, though initially only 2 volumes of illustrations were planned, the final version would include 12. The artist Jacques-Louis Goussier was placed in charge of the Encyclopaedia's illustrated sections. He would devote more than 15 years to visiting workshops and manufacturers in order to draw the tools, machines, workers at work... Often, the crafts studied in the volumes are represented through multiple illustrations, with an overall view, and illustrations of tools, machines and their gears, etc. Texts linked to each illustration contain important data: tool names, machine operation, instructions...
The intention of the Encyclopaedia's creators can be clearly seen through these illustrations. They lavished attention on mechanisation and manual work, and idealised the work of the craftsman. The Encyclopaedia thus redeems the status of the workman, but does not reflect the actual working conditions.
Revolutionary in form, and the object of passionate disputes, the Encyclopaedia has its place in history as a faithful reflection of the Age of Enlightenment.
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