DIDEROT, Denis




Author Tags: 1700-1800

The French philosopher Denis Diderot’s Encylopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Artes et des Métiers, published in 1755, has been described as perhaps the most extensive gathering of knowledge undertaken in the 18th century. Eventually consisting of 35 volumes, it was banned four years after publication by the king and the church because, with contributions from the likes of Voltaire and Rousseau, its remarkable breadth represented a bulkwark or manifesto on behalf of the Enlightenment. Its relevance to British Columbia is slight but not inconsequential.

Diderot and his fellow editors chose to include several maps that were partially based on fabrications, among them Philippe Bauche’s Carte Des Nouvelles Découvertes and Robert de Vaugondy’s map of North America and eastern Asia. The latter was an embellished copy of a 1752 map made by a French geographer named Joseph-Nicolas de L’Isle who had returned to France from St. Petersburg after 21 years at the Academy of Sciences. That 1752 map included some reliable details from previously unknown discoveries made by Russian expeditions, but it simulateously offered a fanciful portrayal of the northwest coast of America derived from the Bartholomew de Fonte hoax now attributed to the short-lived British publication Memoirs for the Curious which was published in 1708. This fictional account of de Fonte’s voyage referred to a ship from Boston that had navigated into the Pacific via the Northwest Passage. Hence Diderot had an influential role in the quest to find the Northwest Passage that led to the “discovery” of British Columbia.

[BCBW 2004] "1700-1800" "French"