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The Essay - Enlightenment Voices - Diderot - Part 1


Denis Diderot - the inspirational driving force behind the greatest publishing enterprise of the Enlightenment, the colossal Encyclopdie - introduced by historian Justin Champion. It is hard to over-estimate the scope and ambition of the Encyclopedie. Published in two decades after 1751, it was the single greatest publishing enterprise of the European Enlightenment. Extending to 28 folio volumes, each a thousand pages in length, and with the intention of recording all existing knowledge, both practical and intellectual, the Encyclopedie contained some 72,000 articles by 230 contributors and sold an astonishing 250,000 copies across Europe. For the first of five programmes, the historian Justin Champion introduces the undertaking, from the commissioning of contributors to the practicalities of printing, binding and distribution, and on to its reception both by ordinary readers and by the political and religious authorities. In Justin's introduction Denis Diderot, the son of a provincial cutler, is brought back to life as the extraordinary driving passion behind this breathtaking landmark both of publishing history and the Enlightenment project.