St. Martin’s Press, 2005
Hardcover, 416 pages
The story of one of the most revolutionary books in history — the Encyclopedie and the young men who risked everything to write it. In 1777 a group of young men produced a book that aimed to tear the world apart and rebuild it. It filled 27 volumes and contained 72,000 articles, 16,500 pages and 17 million words. The Encyclopedie was so dangerous and subversive that it was banned by the Pope and was seen as one of the causes of the French Revolution. The writers included some of the greatest minds of the age: Denis Diderot, the editor, who had come to Paris to become a Jesuit but found the joys of the city too enticing; d’Alembert, one of the leading mathematicians of the 18th century; Rousseau, the father of Romanticism and Voltaire, the author of CANDIDE. During the sixteen years it took to write, compile and produce all twenty seven volumes, the writers had to defy the authorities and faced exile, jail and censorship, as well as numerous internal falling outs and philosophical differences. Yet, in the end, they produced a book that would act as a bomb that exploded at the centre of civilisation and changed the world forever.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
With exceptional interpretive skill, Philipp Blom provides a fascinating study–replete with wonderful stories, racy gossip, and grand personalities–of the arduous struggle to produce the work that became a testament to humanity: The Encyclopedia.
Stephen Eric Bronner, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY
…not only a tribute to a very worthy project of enlightenment and liberation; it is also a thoroughly good read.
Blom, a journalist, novelist, and translator, provides a rich, informative, and lively history of the Encyclopédie and those who worked on it, going so far as to recover some of its unsung heroes, e.g., Louis de Jaucourt who provided some 20,000 entries. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
In this meticulously researched historical narrative… Blom takes the reader through these events and through the Encyclopédie itself in a thorough and engaging way, and he makes a strong case for the work’s importance in shaping philosophy and political thought for years to come. This book is a welcome read for European historians and for those interested in learning about one of the foremost works of the Enlightenment.
*Starred Review* … absorbing history … The Encyclopedie’s story is both epic and epochal, and Blom tells it intelligently, gracefully, and stylishly.
Ray Olson, BOOKLIST