An extract on #enjoygram
Although the existence of dictionaries and encyclopedias spanned into ancient times, the texts changed from simply defining words in a long running list to far more detailed discussions of those words in 18th-century encyclopedic dictionaries. The works were part of an Enlightenment movement to systematize knowledge and provide education to a wider audience than the elite. As the 18th century progressed, the content of encyclopedias also changed according to readers' tastes. Volumes tended to focus more strongly on secular affairs, particularly science and technology, rather than matters of theology.
Along with secular matters, readers also favoured an alphabetical ordering scheme over cumbersome works arranged along thematic lines. The historian Charles Porset, commenting on alphabetization, has said that "as the zero degree of taxonomy, alphabetical order authorizes all reading strategies; in this respect it could be considered an emblem of the Enlightenment." For Porset, the avoidance of thematic and hierarchical systems thus allows free interpretation of the works and becomes an example of egalitarianism. Encyclopedias and dictionaries also became more popular during the Age of Enlightenment as the number of educated consumers who could afford such texts began to multiply. In the later half of the 18th century, the number of dictionaries and encyclopedias published by decade increased from 63 between 1760 and 1769 to approximately 148 in the decade proceeding the French Revolution (17801789). Along with growth in numbers, dictionaries and encyclopedias also grew in length, often having multiple print runs that sometimes included in supplemented editions.
The first technical dictionary was drafted by John Harris and entitled Lexicon Technicum: Or, An Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Harris' book avoided theological and biographical entries; instead it concentrated on science and technology. Published in 1704, the Lexicon technicum was the first book to be written in English that took a methodical approach to describing mathematics and commercial arithmetic along with the physical sciences and navigation. Other technical dictionaries followed Harris' model, including Ephraim Chambers' Cyclopaedia (1728), which included five editions, and was a substantially larger work than Harris'. The folio edition of the work even included foldout engravings. The Cyclopaedia emphasized Newtonian theories, Lockean philosophy, and contained thorough examinations of technologies, such as engraving, brewing, and dyeing.
In Germany, practical reference works intended for the uneducated majority became popular in the 18th century. The Marperger Curieuses Natur-, Kunst-, Berg-, Gewerkund Handlungs-Lexicon (1712) explained terms that usefully described the trades and scientific and commercial education. Jablonksi Allgemeines Lexicon (1721) was better known than the Handlungs-Lexicon, and underscored technical subjects rather than scientific theory. For example, over five columns of text were dedicated to wine, while geometry and logic were allocated only twenty-two and seventeen lines, respectively. The first edition of the Encyclopdia Britannica (1771) was modelled along the same lines as the German lexicons.
However, the prime example of reference works that systematized scientific knowledge in the age of Enlightenment were universal encyclopedias rather than technical dictionaries. It was the goal of universal encyclopedias to record all human knowledge in a comprehensive reference work. The most well-known of these works is Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert's Encyclopdie, ou dictionnaire raisonn des sciences, des arts et des mtiers. The work, which began publication in 1751, was composed of thirty-five volumes and over 71 000 separate entries. A great number of the entries were dedicated to describing the sciences and crafts in detail, and provided intellectuals across Europe with a high-quality survey of human knowledge. In d'Alembert's Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot, the work's goal to record the extent of human knowledge in the arts and sciences is outlined:
The massive work was arranged according to a "tree of knowledge." The tree reflected the marked division between the arts and sciences, which was largely a result of the rise of empiricism. Both areas of knowledge were united by philosophy, or the trunk of the tree of knowledge. The Enlightenment's desacrilization of religion was pronounced in the tree's design, particularly where theology accounted for a peripheral branch, with black magic as a close neighbour. As the Encyclopdie gained popularity, it was published in quarto and octavo editions after 1777. The quarto and octavo editions were much less expensive than previous editions, making the Encyclopdie more accessible to the non-elite. Robert Darnton estimates that there were approximately 25 000 copies of the Encyclopdie in circulation throughout France and Europe before the French Revolution. The extensive, yet affordable encyclopedia came to represent the transmission of Enlightenment and scientific education to an expanding audience.