Sam Duncan, the library director at the Carter, recently asked me to tackle cataloging one of the libraryÊ¼s hidden gems: the thirty-ï¬ve volume EncyclopÃ©die, edited mostly by Denis Diderot. Cataloging a work of this magnitude requires some bibliographical research, and I would like to share with you the interesting knowledge I gained about this wonderful publication. The full title is EncyclopÃ©die, ou Dictionnaire raisonnÃ© des sciences, des arts et des mÃ©tiers, par une sociÃ©tÃ© de gens de lettres, mis en ordre par M. Diderot de l'AcadÃ©mie des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, et quant Ã la partie mathÃ©matique, par M. d'Alembert de l'AcadÃ©mie royale des Sciences de Paris, de celle de Prusse et de la SociÃ©tÃ© royale de Loners, but it is commonly referred to as the EncyclopÃ©die. The EncyclopÃ©die is truly a marvel to behold, for many reasons. Most impressive is the great condition of the CarterÊ¼s example - all thirty-ï¬ve volumes are in exceptional condition, as they were published between 1751 and 1772, making the most recent volume approximately 238 years old. The illustrations are absolutely stunning in both their quality, as well as their variety. Finally, the impact of the publication itself is fascinating. The Carter library's copy also includes a copy of the original bill of sale, a rarity itself.
The EncyclopÃ©die, as I mentioned above, is comprised of thirty-ï¬ve volumes. These thirty-ï¬ve volumes are broken down into seventeen textual volumes, eleven volumes of plates, four supplemental volumes, two index volumes, and a ï¬nal supplemental volume of plates. These volumes, all told, hold seventy-ï¬ve thousand entries, made up of twenty million words, the collaborative work of 150 authors. It is humbling to think of all the effort that went into the production of these large, leather-bound volumes. Many scholars believe the EncyclopÃ©die to be signiï¬cant because it was one of the best representations of the ideas and rhetoric of the enlightenment, as well as being the ï¬rst general encyclopedia to pay special attention to the mechanical arts. The enlightenment ideas are well represented in the classiï¬cation of human knowledge presented in the EncyclopÃ©dieÊ¼s table: theology is placed under theology, and the knowledge of God is only a few points above black magic. As one can imagine, this caused a great deal of criticism in 18th century Catholic France, so much so that in 1759, the king suspended the publication rights for the work. However, work continued in secret - and the CarterÊ¼s EncyclopÃ©die represents this, as the later volumes state that they were published in Amsterdam. Scholars also highlight that the publication of the EncyclopÃ©die was a catalyst for the French Revolution, and a prime example of the democratization and popularization of knowledge associated with the enlightenment. Indeed, M. Diderot himself acknowledged this in the entry for “EncyclopÃ©die,” stating that the purpose of the publication was “to change the way people think.” This publication truly had a signiï¬cant impact on the development of modern Western Civilization.
The classiï¬cation scheme I mentioned above is of speciï¬c interest to me as a librarian. The table represents an earlier effort to classify knowledge - which is one of the specialties of our profession. The scheme of the EncyclopÃ©die was inspired by Francis BaconÊ¼s Advancement of Knowledge, and classiï¬ed all knowledge into three major categories: memory, reason, and imagination. Of course, todayÊ¼s schemes take the form of Library of Congress Classiï¬cation Numbers, and Dewey Decimal Classiï¬cation numbers, and have changed in size, but the purpose remains the same - to classify knowledge, or their containers - books, music, et cetera.
As a library dedicated to the study, scholarship, and preservation of art, the volumes of plates are of particular interest. They cover a wide variety of topics, but focus especially on the mechanical and manual arts--how to create and make “things.” It was these very illustrations that provided the impetus for the Carter to acquire this publication, as they were to support study for a series of planned exhibitions about the mechanical arts. The exhibitions never came to fruition. The engravings themselves are copper engravings, and seem nearly to be as crisp as the day they were printed, nearly three hundred years ago. As a matter of fact, Sam blogged about another publication with beautiful engravings in it, The Feel of Steel. (http://www.cartermuseum.org/blog/the-n-ï¬les/the-feel-of-steel)
For me, cataloging the EncyclopÃ©die represents many of the reasons I chose librarianship as a career. The technical work and research that precedes the ï¬nal catalog record is both challenging and fascinating. Having an opportunity to interact with, and deepen my appreciation for signiï¬cant cultural artifacts is exhilarating. Finally, on behalf of the library staff, I would like to invite you to the library reading room to enjoy these wonderful volumes of the EncyclopÃ©die for yourself, as it is truly a beautiful and awesome thing to behold.
Source for information: Wikipedia entries for the EncyclopÃ©die, Francis Bacon, and Denis Diderot.
Guest blogger: Jason Dean, Library Volunteer
KERA's Art & Seek blog has a great post today about an 'overlooked masterpiece', Wrapped Oranges, on view now in the Carter's galleries.
William J. McCloskey (1859-1941), Wrapped Oranges, oil on canvas, 1889, Acquisition in memory of Katrine Deakins, Trustee, Amon Carter Museum, 1961-1985
Lots of great conversations about modern art took place at My Kid Could Do That: Demystifying Abstract Art, a public program held Saturday. Best of all, our talented participants created great abstract art of their own.
©2010 Amon Carter Museum
Be sure to check out our calendar for more public programs at the Carter!
The forecast calls for showers this week, an unusual event for Texas in July.
Charles Dahlgreen, Approaching Storm, ca. 1913-1915, Monotype, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
Mabel Dwight, Rain, 1935, Lithograph, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.
Ruth Bernhard, Apple Tree, 1970. Gelatin silver print, © 1970 Ruth Bernhard, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Paul Brauchle, Dallas, Texas
Last month the library cataloged (as always) an interesting array of material. Note that there are several early imprints that have come to the collection that are early painting and watercolor technical manuals and other titles on color theory. As I scan the list, I want to draw attention to several titles that captured my attention:
- Diffusion -- a new periodical in the collection that focuses on alternative photographic processes
- Fort Worth's Fairmount District -- new book, with lots of photographs, on the Fort Worth neighborhood from library friend Mike McDermott (Mike did some of his research here in the library)
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward -- ravishing publication observing SFMOMA's 75th year (thanks to the SFMOMA library for sending us a copy)
- For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights -- catalog of the exhibition currently at ICP New York
- Planting the World's Garden -- CD-ROM publication providing a fascinating look at early farm implement advertising in the U.S.
- Poplar Forest -- sensitive and beautiful limited edition photobook looking at Jefferson's country retreat
And so much more!
As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, I was thinking about how the Bill of Rights impacts our lives each day and how artists in the Carter’s collection have visually represented the amendments' intersection with our lives.
The First Amendment grants the freedom of worship”¦
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887--1986), Ranchos Church, New Mexico, 1930–31, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1971.16
The freedom of speech”¦
Ben Shahn (1898--1969), Martin Luther King, 1965, ink and ink wash on paper, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1967.197
The freedom of the press”¦
After Richard Caton Woodville (1825--1856), engraved by Alfred Jones (1819--1900), Mexican News, 1853, hand colored engraving and etching with stipple, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1972.3
And the freedom of assembly (among others).
Laura Gilpin (1891--1979), The Navaho Council Room Window Rock, [Arizona], 1951, gelatin silver print, © 1979 Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, bequest of the artist, P1979.128.187
Can you think of additional works in the Carter’s collection that reflect our other rights? Share them with us by posting a comment below, and have a wonderful holiday!
The museum’s special exhibition this summer, Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art in South and North America, 1920s-50s, opens this Saturday, June 26. The exhibit’s organizing curator, Mary Kate O’Hare, associate curator at the Newark Art Museum, recently appeared on the Art&Seek segment of KERA’s Think http://artandseek.net/.
Childe Hassam (1859-1935), Flags on the Waldorf, 1916, Oil on canvas, 1985.301
Frederick T. Stockdorf, [Party Group], 1897, Gelatin silver print, P1976.4.5
Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), Navaho Family, 1950, Gelatin silver print, © 1979 Amon Carter Museum, Bequest of the artist, P1979.95.15