by knowledgeclassx on March 30, 2016 - 5:22pm
Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire Raisonne Des Sciences
Knowledge Distributed Throughout Time
The book that I was given to analyze at the Osler library was the first edition of its kind, called the Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire Raisonne Des Sciences, Des Arts et Des Metiers du Paris by M.Diderot. The book was made out of wood covered with leather for preservation and gold writing on the side. The book was heavier than usual having 13.5 centimeters in length and 9 centimeters in width. The book was unusually large therefore, it needed to be held up by a lectern. This book would belong to those of a higher status such as nobles, medical people and scholars who could refer to it or use it as decoration. Once I opened the book, not only did it smell awful but I realized underneath the title, labeled in bold “Par Une societe des gens de lettres” which directly translates to “a society of men of letters” which symbolizes the books importance during the early modern period. Therefore, I can draw the conclusion that this book was indeed owned by people who were literate. Although the book was published in 1751, making it almost two centuries old, it was still in good condition except for a couple watermarks that we found inside. The book did show signs that it had been used several times but did not have written notes in the margins. The book was printed in the serif font, and it was also composed of several images that seemed to have been illustrated with excessive detail.
Through an analysis of the Encyclopedia and having read Defining the Initial shift by Elizabeth Einstein, one can see that the way a book was made then is quite different from how a book is produced today. The Encyclopedia analyzed shared somewhat the same purpose of the Encyclopedia that exists in today's modern society, with the exception that in early modern period these types of books were only accessible to those who can afford it. The Encyclopedia book may have shared the same goal to spread knowledge in comparison to today's Encyclopedia. Knowledge was not available, nor was it made to be accessed by everyone since the majority of people were illiterate; “Paper production served the needs of merchants, bureaucrats, preachers, and literati: it quickened the pace of correspondence and enabled more men of letters to act as their own scribes” (Einstein 20). The reason behind the Encyclopedia was to bring together all of their knowledge at the time and put it in a single book, “the production of printed books also gathered together in one place more traditional variegated skills” (Einstein 27). This book informed people how to conduct medical procedures as well as everyday tasks such as getting rid of a headache. This lengthy book was made possible due to the printing press. The publication of such a book could've taken months to create as a result of the work of many scribes. Although in today's modern period we can publish thousands of books at the same time. The creation of the Encyclopedia marked the start of an urban society, “the advent of printing, then, is taken to mean the establishment of presses in urban centers beyond the Rhineland…” (14). In today's world, we may take advantage of having books in our households and schools but in an early modern period only people who were rich and literate could afford books like the first version of the Encyclopedia. Although they can afford the books it doesn't take from the fact that the books are heavy and big to carry around, “new printed products are more intangible, indirect, and difficult to handle” (34). After having inspected the Encyclopedia, I realized that the book has information about medical terms and how to deal with sickness. The book included medical terms that those in the medical field could refer to, however, there were also charts with numbers that referred to the making of remedies for sick people.
Elizabeth Einstein, “Defining the Initial Shift,” The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, 2nd Edition (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2005) : 13-45.