The Business of Enlightenment

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1979 - Foreign Language Study - 638 pages

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.

 

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Contents

I
1
II
38
III
39
IV
44
V
57
VI
66
VII
76
VIII
82
L
279
LI
287
LII
292
LIII
295
LIV
299
LV
301
LVI
319
LVII
324

IX
89
X
94
XI
100
XII
103
XIII
111
XIV
116
XV
120
XVI
124
XVII
127
XVIII
131
XIX
136
XX
139
XXI
147
XXII
154
XXIII
165
XXIV
171
XXV
177
XXVIII
183
XXIX
185
XXX
190
XXXI
195
XXXII
196
XXXIII
203
XXXIV
212
XXXV
219
XXXVI
226
XXXVII
227
XXXVIII
231
XXXIX
232
XL
233
XLI
234
XLII
241
XLIII
246
XLVI
254
XLVII
263
XLVIII
273
XLIX
278
LIX
325
LX
331
LXI
336
LXII
343
LXIII
349
LXIV
360
LXV
362
LXVI
370
LXVII
376
LXVIII
381
LXIX
395
LXX
403
LXXI
410
LXXII
416
LXXIII
423
LXXIV
430
LXXV
437
LXXVI
443
LXXVII
445
LXXVIII
447
LXXIX
454
LXXX
460
LXXXIII
481
LXXXIV
496
LXXXV
510
LXXXVI
520
LXXXVII
531
LXXXVIII
535
LXXXIX
539
XC
549
XCI
586
XCII
594
XCIII
597
XCIV
611
XCV
619
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About the author (1979)

Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian at Harvard University.

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