The last of the great Enlightenment encyclopedias, Charles Joseph Panckoucke’s Encyclopédie Méthodique was originally conceived as an innovative revision of the Encyclopédie and the Supplément. Arranged in a series of subject-specific dictionaries, it began to appear in 1782 and was completed 50 years later, boasting 203 volumes of text and plates produced by many eminent editors and contributors. Kathleen Hardesty Doig’s book is the first to compare the genealogy of the Méthodique with its predecessors as a means to understanding Panchoucke’s original vision for his work.
Through careful examination of each volume of the Méthodique, the author explores for instance:
- how Diderot’s materialist, anti-clerical articles were scrupulously preserved;
- how new contributions on religious topics, written by a renowned French theologian, provided a counter-balancing apology of Catholicism;
- how subjects were augmented or radically transformed, particularly in the sciences where articles reflect groundbreaking research in chemistry and medicine;
- how these changes illuminate the editors’ original goal of an encyclopedia designed to present information in an accessible format to specialists and amateurs alike.
Kathleen Hardesty Doig is Professor of French at Georgia State University. Her research focuses on Enlightenment encyclopedism, and she has published work on the Supplément, the Yverdon Encyclopédie, the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Encyclopédie méthodique. She also co-edited with the late Dorothy Medlin a critical edition of the Mémoires of André Morellet.