The Business of Enlightenment: A publishing history of the Encyclopédie 1775-1800
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The Business of Enlightenment: A publishing history of the Encyclopédie 1775-1800

By Robert DARNTON
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Book Description

A great book about an even greater book is a rare event in publishing. Robert Darnton’s history of the Encyclopédie is such an occasion. The author explores some fascinating territory in the French genre of histoire du livre, and at the same time he tracks the diffusion of Enlightenment ideas. He is concerned with the form of the thought of the great philosophes as it materialized into books and with the way books were made and distributed in the business of publishing. This is cultural history on a broad scale, a history of the process of civilization.



In tracing the publishing story of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, Darnton uses new sources—the papers of eighteenth-century publishers—that allow him to respond firmly to a set of problems long vexing historians. He shows how the material basis of literature and the technology of its production affected the substance and diffusion of ideas. He fully explores the workings of the literary market place, including the roles of publishers, book dealers, traveling salesmen, and other intermediaries in cultural communication. How publishing functioned as a business, and how it fit into the political as well as the economic systems of prerevolutionary Europe are set forth. The making of books touched on this vast range of activities because books were products of artisanal labor, objects of economic exchange, vehicles of ideas, and elements in political and religious conflict.



The ways ideas traveled in early modern Europe, the level of penetration of Enlightenment ideas in the society of the Old Regime, and the connections between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution are brilliantly treated by Darnton. In doing so he unearths a double paradox. It was the upper orders in society rather than the industrial bourgeoisie or the lower classes that first shook off archaic beliefs and took up Enlightenment ideas. And the state, which initially had suppressed those ideas, ultimately came to favor them. Yet at this high point in the diffusion and legitimation of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution erupted, destroying the social and political order in which the Enlightenment had flourished.



Never again will the contours of the Enlightenment be drawn without reference to this work. Darnton has written an indispensable book for historians of modern Europe.



Paperback available from Harvard University Press.

Table of Contents
  • CONTENTS
  • I. Introduction: The Biography of a Book
  • II. The Genesis of a Speculation in Publishing
    • The Neuchâtel Reprint Plan
    • From the Reprint to the Revised Edition
    • Joseph Duplain and His Quarto Encyclopédie
    • Publishing, Politics, and Panckoucke
    • From the Revised Edition to the Quarto
    • The Paris Conference of 1777
    • The Basis of a Bonne Affaire
  • III. Juggling Editions
    • The ‘‘Second Edition’’
    • The Origins of the “Third Edition”
    • Imbroglios
    • The Neuchâtel Imprint
    • Opening Gambits of the Final Negotiations
    • Duel by Lettre Ostensible
    • The Last Turn of the Screw
    • The Contract
  • IV. Piracy and Trade War
    • Pirate Raids
    • The Octave Publishers and Their Encyclopédie
    • The Origins of the Quarto-Octavo War
    • The Final Failure of Diplomacy
    • Open War
    • Pourparlers for Peace
    • A Drôle de Paix
  • V. Bookmaking
    • Strains on the Production System
    • Procuring Paper
    • Copy
    • Recruiting Workers
    • Setting Wages
    • Pacing Work and Managing Labor
    • Printing : Technology and the Human Element
  • VI. Diffusion
    • Managerial Problems and Polemics
    • Marketing
    • Booksellers
    • Prices and Consumers
    • The Sales Pattern
    • Subscribers, A Case Study
    • Diffusion in France
    • Diffusion Outside France
    • Reading
  • VII. Settling Accounts
    • The Hidden Schism of 1778
    • A Preliminary Règlement de Comptes
    • The Feud Between Duplain and the STN
    • Marketing Maneuvers
    • The Perrin Affair
    • The Anatomy of a Swindle
    • The Final Confrontation in Lyons
    • Dénouement
    • Epilogue
  • VIII. The Ultimate Encyclopédie
    • The Origins of the Encyclopédie méthodique
    • The Climactic Moment in Enlightenment Publishing
    • The Liégeois Settlement
    • Panckoucke’s Conception of the Supreme Encyclopédie
    • Panckoucke as an Editor
    • The Authors of the Méthodique
    • Two Generations of Encyclopedists
    • From Voltairianism to Professionalism
    • Launching the Biggest Book of the Century
  • IX. Encyclopedism, Capitalism, and Revolution
    • Panckoucke’s Folly
    • From Encyclopedism to Jacobinism
    • An Enlightenment Publisher in a Cultural Revolution
    • The Last of the Encyclopedists
  • X. Conclusion
    • The Production and Diffusion of Enlightenment
    • Enlightenment Publishing and the Spirit of Capitalism
    • The Encyclopédie and the State
    • The Cultural Revolution
  • Appendices
    • A. Contracts of the Encyclopédie Publishers, 1776–1780
    • B. Subscriptions to the Quarto Encyclopédie
    • C. Incidence of Subscriptions in Major French Cities
    • D. Contributors to the Encyclopédie Méthodique
  • Bibliographical Note
  • Index
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