Lead: There is no doubt. In the 1700s the best-selling book was the multi-volume Encyclopédie, edited by Jean d’Alembert and Denis Diderot.

Tag: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: This massive compendium of knowledge actually got its start as a failed attempt at a French translation of Englishman Ephraim Chambers Cyclopedia in 1745. Chambers’ work was a well-respected summary of human knowledge popular on both sides of the English Channel, but the translators did a poor job. To save the project the printer sought out d’Alembert and Diderot, two of French society’s most respected young intellects. The printer had salvage on his mind, the two future collaborators had something far ambitious on theirs. They set out to assemble a exhaustive presentation of universal facts based on a new way of thinking.


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