Revisiting Renaissance Encyclopaedism
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CitationBlair, Ann. 2013. "Revisiting Renaissance Encyclopaedism." In Encyclopaedism from Antiquity to the Renaissance, edited by Jason König and Greg Woolf, 377-97. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
AbstractThe Renaissance has long been associated with ‘encyclopedism’ primarily for two different reasons which are not directly related to one another. On the hand the term was first coined in the late fifteenth century, though without many of connotations we associate with the term today, to designate an ideal of learning which spanned and highlighted the relations between many disciplines. On the other hand many Renaissance writings, from compilations in various fields to novels and poetry, are considered encyclopedic today because of their large bulk and/or their ideal of exhaustive and multidisciplinary scope. Only occasionally did early modern authors apply the term ‘encyclopedia’ to what we consider their encyclopedic compiling activities, but by the late seventeenth century a handful of works had begun to forge the connection between the term and a kind of reference book. The success of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia (1710) and Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie (1751) established the ‘encyclopedia’ as a title of a genre which was imitated faddishly throughout the eighteenth century and which has been going strong ever since. My main interest in this essay is to ponder the intellectual foundations of the encyclopedic ambitions of large-scale compilers in the Renaissance—what was new about Renaissance encyclopedism and what motivated these innovations—while attending to the gradual convergence between the term ‘encyclopedia’ and our concept of encyclopedism.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:29675365
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