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Contributed by Michael Twomey on 07/24/2012
Michael Twomey, English Department, Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts, was quoted in an article published in the Summer 2012 issue of Colonial Williamsburg magazine.
The article, "Volumes of Knowledge: How the Enlightenment Perfected the Encyclopedia," by James Breig, presents the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert, published serially in 1751-1772, as an expression of eighteenth-century empiricism and as the first modern encyclopedia. Modern scholars working at Colonial Williamsburg use the Encyclopédie as a guide to eighteenth-century tools and technologies, making necessary allowances for the differences between French and English material culture. The article also explores the making of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1768ff.)--pirated early editions of which were owned by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton--as a nationalistic response to the French. In a section of the article that contrasts recent encyclopedias with these two giants of the Enlightenment, Twomey comments on the differences between editorially-supervised encyclopedias and Wikipedia.