Before email, faculty meetings, international colloquia, and professional associations, the world of scholarship relied on its own networks: networks of correspondence that stretched across countries and continents; the social networks created by scientific academies; and the physical networks brought about by travel. These networks were the lifelines of learning, from the age of Erasmus to the age of Franklin. They facilitated the dissemination-and the criticism-of ideas, the spread of political news, as well as the circulation of people and objects.
But what did these networks actually look like? Were they as extensive as we are led to believe? How did they evolve over time? Mapping the Republic of Letters, a project of Stanford University (in collaboration with international partners), seeks to answer these and other questions through the development of sophisticated, interactive visualization tools. It also aims to create a repository for metadata on early-modern scholarship, and guidelines for future data capture.
The Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres was published under the direction of Diderot and d'Alembert, with 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates between 1751 and 1772. Containing 74,000 articles written by more than 130 contributors, the Encyclopédie was a massive reference work for the arts and sciences, as well as a machine de guerre which served to propagate the ideas of the French Enlightenment. The impact of the Encyclopédie was enormous. Through its attempt to classify learning and to open all domains of human activity to its readers, the Encyclopédie gave expression to many of the most important intellectual and social developments of its time.
The ARTFL Encyclopédie database contains 21.7 million words, 254,000 unique forms, 18,000 pages of text, 17 volumes of articles, and 11 volumes of plate legends.