Lettres contre loubli (French Edition)
Or, la fin de cette lettre p. Conclusion provisoire.
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One can notice that in French, un livre a book , ironically happens to be the same word as une livre a pound — both the weight and the eighteenth-century monetary unit , though with a different gender and etymology. The thought of a work of literature, the first type of livre , being measured by mere price or weight, the second type of livre , is precisely what Enlightenment authors beheld with horror. LIVRE, s. The question one cannot help but ask is, what does this passage exclude? An infinite number of publications can simply not meet these standards.
Does that mean that they do not count as books? Nevertheless, the philosophes usurp this authority, at least in their imagination, in order to censor not immoral or dangerous works, as theirs were considered, but useless and ridiculous books. Shy-Wang-Ti disoit que They agree that reading and writing create a class of idle people who are a drain on society — though surely they excluded themselves from this group.
Les lettrés de la République
In the fantasy world of several Enlightenment writers, therefore, book-burning was seen as necessary if society was to purify itself of its present corruption. It remained to be seen whether this idea could, or should, ever be implemented. As Rousseau sees it, young men, instead of learning civic virtues, accumulate useless bits of information and become caught up in the competition for bel esprit , or wit.
While Rousseau had a vision of society unattainable for those of us living in an already corrupted world that needed no language and only minimal technical mastery of the elements, Diderot, Voltaire, and others favored the advancement of all aspects of knowledge, including eloquence and the natural sciences. As to his books, he had expressed a cavalier attitude about keeping or losing them. He was delighted with this unexpected proposition, as we can see in his correspondence.
While he takes advantage of the book market — or rather, he had tried to but failed and in the end benefited from the old-fashioned patronage of the empress of Russia — he did it not as a merchant but in order to transform books into money. As if by some alchemical transformation, books would dissolve into money, which would dissolve into paternal love. Why did he not keep his works intact? Why was he so careless about leaving masterpieces in handwritten form?
École doctorale Lettres, langues, linguistique et arts (Lyon) [WorldCat Identities]
Why this reluctance to publish? Diderot specialists have yet to find an answer. The most notorious incident during the publication process involved the removal of large sections from certain articles by his editor, Le Breton. As Diderot submitted manuscript texts, Le Breton presumably censored the parts that he judged too controversial to meet the approval of the French government, which had at this stage given permission to publish.
Lettres inédites de Marguerite de Valois à Pomponne de Bellièvre
His bitterness surely tainted his future relations to publishers. However, scholars question his motives, some suggesting that he was under pressure to write this essay in , while in the middle of the vast Encyclopedic project, when he needed the support of publishers the most. Indeed, Diderot himself admits that this Letter goes against his typical stance against the exclusivity of guilds, which would suggest that he did not write this letter entirely from his own free will.
According to Jacques Proust, Diderot wrote this text out of self-interest and tactical considerations. Otherwise, he argues, the competition between printers for financial gain causes the market to be flooded with rapidly-produced and thus inferior editions of classic works. Some restriction in the market would allow libraires to make long-term investments in carefully produced, well-edited editions.
By emphasizing quality over quantity, he effectively dismisses the advantages of making cheaper books more readily available to a larger number of people. In fact, the ultimate consequence of the Lettre would be for people to publish not more, but less. For this reason, they mocked book collectors as ignorant people who merely accumulated possessions without benefiting from them or without allowing others to benefit. As Daniel Desormeaux remarks, Enlightenment writers wanted books to circulate, to be read, the important parts to be absorbed, and then to be passed along.
In the Lettre sur le commerce de la librairie , Diderot includes a brief history of publishing that hardly glorifies Gutenberg or his French contemporaries. Like the Moderns, he asserts that old books have less value because they have been surpassed by new books.
LETTRE D’UN CINÉASTE
Some believed that this initiative exclusively applied to genealogical documents and property deeds; others assumed it applied to any historical documents or any book that bore a coat of arms on its binding. If the policy was understood as applying to books, then the old, rare, and luxuriously bound volumes that had been ensconced in aristocratic homes and in religious institutions 46 would be subjected to a stern triage. On the one hand, the idea of livres utiles that advances science seems strikingly similar in Enlightenment and Revolutionary discourse.
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Condorcet, for example, recommends in his report on public education that the populace be kept away from Greek and Latin texts, because they contain too much outdated information:. The philosophes argued for restrictions on publication in order to uphold their own authority as critics. They wished to transfer the privileges of the elites to themselves, not create a system of equality in intellectual matters.
By contrast, the Revolutionaries, such as Condorcet, wished to sweep away evidence that supported past aristocratic privilege and institute a system of education from which all would benefit, even if there would be an eventual selection of better students who could move on to higher spheres of scholarship. Opposing the idolization of books is not the same as advocating for mass education. When he presented his Rapport sur la bibliographie to the National Convention in , he made the case for selective destruction and preservation, using very similar terms as the Enlightenment philosophes.
It is appropriate, then, that he calls for the preservation of knowledge, even if it has been superseded.