UCB Libraries


Past Exhibit

The Enlightenment


illus: A Chop-House, by W. Dickenson
A Chop-House, by W. Dickinson. London, published October 15, 1781


A Collaborative Display by German 5210 and Comparative Literature 5620 Graduate Students

Taught by Asst. Prof. Ann Schmiesing,

Department of Germanicand Slavic Languages and Literatures
University of Colorado at Boulder, GRMN 5210, Fall 1999

March 24 through June 30, 2000
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday from 9 a.m. to noon & 2 to 5 p.m.
Special Collections Department, Norlin Library, Room N345, UCB Libraries,
303-492-6144. Free and Open to the Public.




This exhibit was created by graduate students enrolled in a course on the European Enlightenment that I taught in Fall 1999. With the assistance of the Special Collections staff, the students selected books, wrote captions, and planned the layout of the exhibit. The books that they chose represent key themes of, and responses to, Enlightenment science, literature, politics, and economics. Although no exhibit can fully capture the achievements of the "Age of Reason" or the controversies that surround it, we hope that this selection of Enlightenment books will inspire you to explore the spirit of the age further.


We wish to thank the members of Special Collections for their help and enthusiasm, as well as the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures for its support of this project.


Professor Ann Schmiesing
Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
University of Colorado at Boulder


Bibliography of books included in this display



Participants and exhibit descriptions:

Eric J. Backes
Saussure's Voyages dans les Alpes
Mark Benassi
Bailly's Lettres sur l'origine des sciences
Eric Collins
Paine's Common Sense
J.N. DeRoush
Fielding's Tom Jones
Hans Grohmann
Linné's A General System of Nature
Ines Hälbig
Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Lisa Jaramillo
Lavater's Essays in Physiognomy
Angela S. Parham
Gay's Beggar's Opera, illustrated by Hogarth
Aaron W. Perry
Smith's Wealth of Nations
Professor Ann Schmiesing
Diderot's Encyclopédie
Sybille Strmiska
Johnson's Dictionary
Carol Tiegs
Preston's Illustrations of Masonry
Katherine Wank
Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers




Horace-Bénedict de Saussure, Voyages dans les Alpes, précédés d'un essai sur l'histoire naturelle des environs de Genève. This edition from Neuchatel, 1796-1804.



The modern sport of mountaineering is often traced directly to the foundation of the Swiss Alpine Club in 1857. However, both the impetus for this nineteenth-century "fashion" and the origin of the modern notions surrounding the sport occurred in 1786 when Mont Blanc was first ascended by Dr. Michel Gabriel Paccard and guide Jacques Balmat. This ascension was the culmination of many unsuccessful attempts on the mountain, all in response to Horace-Bénedict de Saussure's offer in 1760 to reward the first successful expedition to the summit. Professor of Philosophy and Natural Science in the Academy of Geneva from 1762 to 1786, Saussure intended to retrace the route to conduct scientific observations in the extreme elevations of the Mont Blanc Massif. Voyages dans les Alpes compiled not only Saussure's Relation abrégée d'un voyage Ö à la cime du Mont-Blanc (vol. 4) detailing his ascent and observations of 1787, but also his many other scientific accounts of the natural environment surrounding Geneva and the Chamonix valley.


Primarily a scientific dissertation, Voyages dans les Alpes is complicit in a concerted effort by many Western intellectuals of the eighteenth century to systematize nature by observing, classifying, and recording natural phenomena previously believed to be inaccessible to human understanding. An underlying theme in many expedition narratives from the period (i.e., Cook's Journals and Diderot's Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville) is the desire to conquer the unknown or chaotic element, both in nature and in human society, thereby "discovering" a productive resource for "modern civilization." Through painstakingly detailed observations on subjects as diverse as geology, climate, agriculture, horticulture, ornithology, as well as descriptions of the environmental and physiological effects of high elevation on the human body, Saussure sought to conquer the mysteries and mythologies surrounding mountains. His success in this endeavor remains suspect, yet the increasing popularity of mountaineering in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries indicates a relative accessibility to high peaks around the globe unknown prior to Saussure's Voyages dans les Alpes.


The illustration facing page 408 of the first volume, captioned "Vue circulaire des Montagnes qu'on découvre du sommet du Glacier de Buet" ("Circular view of the mountains discovered from the summit of Buet Glacier") represents an important paradox in the scientific context of Voyages dans les Alpes. The perspective, although presented as factual, is actually a fictitious portrayal of an impossible gaze. The reader is presented with an aerial view of the landscape unnaturally compressed into a circular border. In effect, the natural environment is disfigured by the artist to (mis)represent an ordered and harmonious depiction as factual observation.


Erik J. Backes




Jean-Sylvain Bailly, Lettres sur l'origine des sciences, et sur celle des peuples de l'Asie, addressées à M. de Voltaire par M. Bailly. A Londres . . . Paris, 1777.



The importance of the Lettres sur l'origine des sciences (Letters concerning the origin of the sciences) lies not in any lasting scientific or philosophical influence, but rather in the way in which it reflects the age in which it was written and the man who wrote it. While Bailly is best known as the first mayor of Paris, Edwin Burrows Smith, one of Bailly's rare biographers, suggests that as "scientist and illuminist, conservative and revolutionist, he combines the contradictory forces of his generation." The numerous translations and editions of his works, largely forgotten today, and his membership in three French academies, including the Académie Francaise and the Académie des sciences, testify to the extent of contemporary interest in, and respect for, his ideas. Besides originally being published in French in both London and Paris, it appeared in a German translation just a year later.


Born in 1736, Bailly declined to pursue an artistic career, traditional in his family, to pursue mathematics and, in particular, astronomy, the field of his most lasting intellectual achievements. His literary successes were limited to a number of short biographies, éloges, which were popular in France during the middle of the century. Along with many other enlightenment thinkers, Bailly was interested in the origins of mankind, which he attempted to investigate through the examination of mythology and ancient literature. He was seeking to uncover the "grand order" of human affairs, a concept he borrowed from Court de Gébelin, which could serve as the basis for a political and moral philosophy that would bring all men together as brothers. He eventually found his way into Freemasonry and membership in the Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, where he mingled with other prominent savants such as Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Guillotin, the inventor of the very device which would later be employed in Bailly's own untimely end.


While there is no mention of the purely literary letters of Bailly's Lettres sur l'origine in Voltaire's correspondence, there was some correspondence prior to its publication in which the two discussed the oldest human civilization. Bailly, opposed to Voltaire's idea that civilization had originated in India, believed that civilization had first arisen in north central Asia. He emphatically maintains in the beginning of his seventh letter "that the people who formerly held the scepter of the sciences in Asia were the originators of all the philosophical ideas which have illuminated the world." He would later attempt to connect this civilization with Plato's Atlantis, but even though his speculations remained controversial, the respect he continued to enjoy as an astronomer and, on the eve of the revolution, as a champion of human rights, did not diminish. With no background in government or politics, he was swept into office in 1789 as the first mayor of Paris with the support of commoner as well as king. Unfortunately, his conservative nature was no match for the demands of revolutionary politics and his early popularity rapidly eroded. Branded an enemy of the people by the same citizens who had once cheered him into office, he was executed in 1793.


Mark Benassi




Thomas Paine, Common Sense. First published in 1776;

this edition from London, 1791.



"These are the times that try men's souls." This famous first line comes from Thomas Paine's best-known pamphlet, The Crisis. Paine's most influential work, however, was Common Sense, which persuasively argued for independence from Britain and played an integral part in the formation of the independence movement in the British colonies in the 1770s. Paine's writings were not only of importance to the American Revolution, but also influenced the French Revolution and spurred reform in Britain.


Paine was born in Thetford, Norfolk, in England. He worked as a sailor and an exciseman before emigrating to the Colonies in 1774 on the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin. Within a year and a half, Thomas Paine became one of the most active figures in the push for independence in the Colonies. His pamphlet Common Sense was published on January 10, 1776. In the publication, Paine ponders the role of government, and presses the issue of independence from Britain.


In the first section, Paine views government as a necessary evil; made necessary by the fact that humans are not perfect and are prone to vice. Since a government is susceptible to vice as well, the only government that can really function is one that is both of the people and accountable to the people.


Paine proceeds in the second section to question monarchy's elevation of certain men above others on the basis of birth alone. As the recent violence in England attests, he reasons, such a system is not conducive to peace and the pursuit of happiness. In the third section, he gives reasons for why the Colonies must pursue independence from Britain. Ideologically, Paine sees the fight for independence as one of the great causes of humanity, stating: "The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent ... 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now."


As plain "common sense" reveals, Paine further argues, the main reason for independence is that the hostilities between Britain and the Colonies have already gone too far for a meaningful reconciliation to occur. Britain will not be able to govern a growing American bureaucracy with any efficiency. Paine states: "It is not in the power of Britain to do this continent justice: the business of it will soon be too weighty ... to be managed with any tolerable degree of convenience, by a power, so distant from us." Furthermore, Britain would never allow the Colonies to retain any negotiated advantages for very long. The Colonies, according to Paine, were no longer dependent upon Britain for economic growth; instead, Britain was growing dependent upon the economic output of the Colonies. Continued political dependence upon Britain would also mean involvement in Britain's conflicts with other nations' conflicts, which would hurt the Colonies' commerce.


Paine deems the time right to establish an independent union of states, which for the first time would allow for the formation of a truly democratic society. He senses that the drive for independence must take place immediately, lest the opportunity to split from Britain be lost. A democratic government, small and inexpensive, would ensure the security of trade and the freedom of religion, as well as uphold other basic human rights. It would also serve as a model for the rest of the world. As a starting point, Paine reflects upon how this democratic government might come about, and what shape it might assume.


Thomas Paine's Common Sense was published at a time when many colonists were undecided about where the revolution should take them. It helped to set the goals of the American Revolution by providing a strong and compelling argument for independence. This argument was based on reason and common sense, but what makes the pamphlet particularly persuasive is Paine's combination of reason and rhetoric. The reader arrives at the rational conclusion that independence is the only choice, and that it is, for the Colonies, "Time to part."


Eric Collins




Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.

London, 1749.



Critically acclaimed as "a comic epic in prose," Tom Jones is regarded as one of the most influential early novels of the eighteenth century. It is also acknowledged to be the first comedic novel to gain notoriety. Tom Jones was not Henry Fielding's first comedic work. Joseph Andrews and An Apology for the Life of Miss Shamela (a parody of Samuel Richardson's Pamela) were published in 1742. Miscellanies, to include the novel Jonathan Wild, was published in 1743.


Tom Jones was well received in its day. It departs drastically from moralistic novels such as Samuel Richardson's Pamela, in which happiness is the reward of virtue. Tom Jones can also be seen as a reaction to the gushing sentimentalism of earlier novels, such as the epistolary novels of Richardson, in which the characters are regularly carried away by the fervor of their own emotions and expound upon them ad nauseam.


Tom Jones also departs stylistically from earlier novels such as Samuel Richardson's Pamela or Clarissa, both of which are epistolary novels - novels in letters. In these earlier novels, the narrator gives the illusion that the letters are someone else's correspondence to which he will only be the editor. In Tom Jones, the form is prose, without the pretense of letters. The narrator actively engages the reader in the tale. The narrator often stops to discuss the events in the story, or to take the reader back to an earlier event that has become relevant. The reader, therefore, is drawn in by the trust of the narrator, and understands the characters not only by how they interact with each other, but also by taking into account the light the narrator chooses to shed upon each individual.


The musings of the narrator and the dialogue of one important character provide a window to view the renaissance in thought occurring in the eighteenth century. The importance of childhood was first recognized, and many modern views have their beginnings in this century. The opposing camps of thought on child-rearing may be seen in the beliefs of Mr. Thwackum, who tends to follow the maxim "spare the rod, spoil the child," in philosophy more similar to John Locke's, and the beliefs of Mr. Square, whose views are more concurrent with Rousseau's.


The argument of Nature versus Nurture, familiar to all who have studied psychology, is imbedded in eighteenth-century thought. This argument figures prominently in the rearing of Tom Jones, who, it is conjectured, was born to end in the gallows, and nearly does. Is it his nature to be wanton and prone to vice, or can a proper upbringing - peppered heavily with the rod - save him from the heinous fate of being born a bastard? Through the running social commentary of the narrator, Tom Jones can be seen as a reflection of the prevailing thought of the time, and at some points a parody of it.


J.N. DeRoush




Carl von Linné, A General System of Nature. First published in Latin, 1758-59; this first English edition from London, 1802-1806.



Title PageLinne, A General Sysytem of Nature. Frontispiece and title page.


"It is the exclusive property of man to contemplate and to reason on the great book of nature. She gradually unfolds herself to him, who with patience and perseverance, will search into her mysteries." The systematic exploration of nature, including its mechanisms and schemes, lay at the bottom of the opus magnus of Carl von Linné, the leading botanist of the eighteenth century. Linné's scientific task pertained to the recognition of nature as a macrocosm of order, harmony, and divine benevolence. It was founded on the assumption that the realm of nature had to be subdued to a human system of classification, therefore permitting nature to serve as a role model of universal order and semi-utopian perfection. The flaws and irregularities of the social order of man inevitably enhanced the advantages of nature, since harmony and order in nature were perceived as its logic foundation beyond human comprehension. Yet to overcome the lack of human order, the systematization of nature served as an adequate means to reach a better understanding of the human order.


The seven volumes of System of Nature, first published in Latin in 1758-59, offer an impressive work of investigation. Comprised as a book of reference, Linné's work expounded nature according to the perception of nature which was relevant to his time. Dividing nature into the realm of animals, plants, and minerals, Linné combined the findings of meticulous observation with an insightful presentation of more than 1000 animals, 3500 plants, and approximately 2000 minerals.


Today, the value of Linné's effort lies in its being a transitional work of the human intellect. The concept of nature, which saw nature as a chain of several dependent kingdoms, was drawn from the Biblical testimony of the foundation of the universe by "the Author of all things." However, the progressive application of scientific methods, systems, and sets of devices in depicting nature's riddles displays the paradoxical character of the time in which the book was conceived.


Hans Grohmann




Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

London, 1792



It is not until the recent decades of the twentieth century that Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman has been celebrated as a cornerstone of feminist thought and a keen analysis of the social conditions of her time. Vindication caused a stir after it was first published, but due to its scandalous reputation, it was largely unread throughout the nineteenth century. Wollstonecraft's opponents, who called her a "hyena in petticoats," attacked her as much for her radical ideas as for her unconventional, "immoral" life which included love affairs, an illegitimate daughter, and two suicide attempts.


The so-called Enlightenment or Age of Reason was a time of social and political change. While revolutionaries advocated freedom and equality, philosophers pursued the search for truth and proclaimed that man should liberate himself from superstition and ignorance by expanding his mind. Most eighteenth-century thinkers, however, were oblivious to the fact that they were creating a double standard by denying women the same rights they claimed for men. Despite his revolutionary notion that men should not have power over other men, Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that man's superiority over woman was "the law of nature." Rousseau's opinion is based on his profound contempt for women's intellectual capacities: "Consult the women's opinions in bodily matters, in all that concerns the senses; consult the men in matters of morality and all that concerns the understanding." It is thinkers like Rousseau who become the primary target of Wollstonecraft's criticism.


Even though earlier writers in France and England had pointed out the injustices of a male-dominated society, Wollstonecraft's demand to extend the principle of inalienable human rights to women was unprecedented. She claimed that as far as the natural ability to reason is concerned, there was no difference between men and women. Wollstonecraft's assumption that the apparent differences between the sexes are the result of social and educational conditions lead her to the conviction that men and women should receive an identical education so they may fully develop their intellectual and human potential.


Wollstonecraft draws attention to what she considers to be one of the major flaws of society by exposing the vanity of contemporary women and their preoccupation with appearances as "false refinement" and "mistaken notions of female excellence." As Wollstonecraft reveals the shallowness of supposedly ideal female qualities, she points out that the problem is exacerbated by male as well as female behavior. On the one hand, men enforce the traditional notion of femininity and thus keep women in inferior positions. On the other hand, women accept their superficial roles instead of obtaining an education, which would invariably lead them to become independent, free-thinking human beings: "And why do they [women] not discover, when 'in the noon of beauty's power', that they are treated like queens only to be deluded by hollow respect, till they are led to resign, or not assume, their natural prerogatives?"


Because Wollstonecraft dares to undermine an ideology of femininity that has grown over centuries, it is hardly surprising that her work found only limited acceptance among other writers of her time, male and female. Even though female writers began to establish themselves in eighteenth-century England, they were limited to genres that were considered to be appropriate for women, such as poetry, letters, and fiction. By writing a book as radical and polemical as her Vindication, Wollstonecraft broke free from these restrictions and boldly ventured into a male domain. She thus set an example of female power and independence that heightened the impact of her argument and eventually gave women the courage to assert themselves.


Ines Hälbig




Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy. First published in German in 1775; this edition from London, 1789-98.



Illustration of mouthsLavater, Essays on Physiognomy. Vol II, pt II, page 400.


Defined as the art or "science" of judging a person's character based on external appearance, physiognomy dates back as far as Aristotle and was rediscovered in Europe late in the eighteenth century. No one was more influential in this revival than the Swiss pastor Johann Caspar Lavater. Lavater's famous Essays on Physiognomy sparked a "physiognomania" that spread quickly across Europe, influencing art, literature, and daily social life. Lavater sold his books, complemented by about 800 illustrations, at a high price, claiming that he did not write them for the masses, and that they were not intended to be purchased or read by the common man. However, he believed that anyone could be a physiognomist, and believed that just about everyone believed in his ideas, whether they expressed it publicly or not. He backed up his assertions, literally, with a money-back guarantee.


The essays were first published in German in 1775. Translations appeared in many languages throughout the following decades on into the nineteenth century, where other so-called "pseudosciences," such as the phrenology of Gall and Spurzheim, also gained popularity. There were five publications in 1770s and four in 1780s, and three French translations in 1780s. The English translation by Henry Hunter featured here was very successful and also very expensive. The Monthly Magazine called it "the finest printed book which has ever appeared in this or any other country." By 1810 there were at least sixteen German, fifteen French, two American, one Dutch, one Italian, and no fewer than twenty English versions. It is difficult to imagine how a literate person of the time could have failed to have some general knowledge of Lavater and his theories.


Lavater stressed the close relationship of art and physiognomy, featuring very popular artists in the illustrations in his book, and thus further adding to its appeal. Physiognomy as a "science" stressed the relationship between peoples' inner and outer selves, focusing on the features of the face (especially the nose, forehead, eyes, and chin). Furthermore, it was based on the notion that physical beauty displayed moral goodness and closeness to God.


In spite of its success, Lavater's theory was not without criticism. In fact, its success is often attributed to an enthusiasm for fad science, rather than real scientific proof. Even Lavater noted the faults in some of his assertions, but he justified them by saying that no theory is right one-hundred-percent of the time. The bulk of the Enlightenment thinkers found physiognomy to be a "pseudoscience" which focused too much on superficiality, and they feared its racist potential. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, one of Lavater's main critics, poked fun at Lavater in an essay where he analyzed the physiognomy of a pig's tail. He also argued that the world's best thinkers go beyond such superficialities and are actually the worst physiognomists. Lichtenberg, commenting on Lavater's theories, wrote, "Lavater finds more in the noses of our current writers than the reasonable world in their works!"


The full title of the work is Essays on Physiognomy, Designed to Promote the Knowledge and Love of Mankind. This in itself is a contradiction, as physiognomy was a very Eurocentric practice. Instead of promoting brotherly love, it gave people an excuse to act upon their prejudices. Physiognomists argued that a person's features are natural, genetic, and cannot be changed, giving people "proof" and justification for their racist beliefs and behaviors, while corrupting the ideals and values that the Enlightenment so strongly supported.


Lisa Jaramillo




Eighteenth-Century Theatre: Hogarth's illustrations for John Gay's Beggar's Opera. Painted by Hogarth in 1729; etched by William Blake in 1788; this reproduction from New Haven, 1965.



Illustration from Beggar's OperaGay, Beggar's Opera. Print by William Blake; fourth state. Mr. Wilmarth S. Lewis.


Theatre-going in eighteenth-century Europe and England reached new heights as attendance rose and an increasing number of theatres were erected to accommodate large audiences. This period saw the openings of provincial theatres across the continent, the French House in the Haymarket, the Little Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, to name just a few. During the Enlightenment, the theatre became an arena where new and revolutionary political and social ideas were explored and former myths and superstitions were challenged. As more Enlightenment thinkers began to question the tenets of religion, many eighteenth-century citizens began to replace the pulpit with the stage, and looked to the theatre for their moral instruction as well as entertainment.


The theatre gradually moved from the sphere of the courts, as seen during the Restoration, into the independent playhouses open to the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie. This emerging middle class, whose desire for entertainment and willingness to attend plays made playhouses financially independent from the courts, encouraged experimentation with theatrical forms. Although theatre-going during the eighteenth century was not as universal as in Shakespeare's time, plays began to reflect the bourgeois lifestyle rather than mirror the stilted life of the court, and theatre-going became very fashionable among the middle class.


William Hogarth satirically depicts an eighteenth-century theatre audience and captures the strong delineation of class, witnessed in the seating of the audience members. The members of the aristocracy, seated in the upper box seats, feel a strong ownership of the theatre as their less formal behavior demonstrates, whereas the middle class patrons show their passion for the theatre through their attentive faces. Because audiences often grew rowdy and vocal about their pleasure or displeasure over a piece, guards frequently kept watch to protect the actors from a possible disturbance on the stage or riots. In Hogarth's scene the barrier between the audience and the stage is spiked with metal spears to deter any such disruptive behavior.


Produced by John Rich at Rich's theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1728, The Beggar's Opera by John Gay captured the eighteenth-century audience's imagination, and introduced a new theatrical form. Gay wrote a play that satirized the aristocracy and the ruling political class while also reflecting the lifestyle of the middle class through his ballad opera. His ballad opera was also intended as a parody of the very popular Italian operas that relied on ornate sets and flowery grand arias. Gay chose to have beggars and criminals instead of kings and nobles sing ballad tunes.


Hogarth portrays Act III, Scene xi, Air LV. The five characters illustrated are, left to right, Lucy Lockit; her father, the Warden of Newgate; Macheath, the highwayman; Polly Peachum; and her father. After Mr. Peachum has revealed Macheath to the authorities in hopes that Macheath will be hanged and Polly will collect a widow's pension from his death, Polly and Lucy plead with their fathers one last time to spare Macheath's life. The five original actors are portrayed in Hogarth's picture: Mrs. Egleton as Lucy, Mr. Hall as Lockit, Thomas Walker as Macheath, Lavinia Fenton as Polly, and John Hippisley as Peachum.


The Beggar's Opera had a lasting effect on eighteenth-century theatre. The play was very successful and spurred many imitations, but Sir Robert Walpole, who was directly parodied in the play, exacted revenge by passing the Licensing Act of 1737. This Act effectively muzzled British theatre and banned many new plays.


Angela S. Parham




Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. First published in 1776; this edition from London, 1791.



1776 was a momentous year in the evolution of the modern politico-economic order by which we continue to live. In addition to seeing the British colonies in North America proclaim their sovereignty in the Declaration of Independence, this year also saw the publication of the most definitive treatise on modern economic systems - Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.


The significance of Smith's Inquiry lies not so much in the introduction of novel economic theory, as in Smith's comprehensive and systematic analysis in favor of the then emerging free-market economy. Smith was more an historical economist than an abstract theoretician. He based his compelling analyses and arguments for the general efficacy of a free-market system on empirical and factual data, not on mere speculation.


Smith's Inquiry was published toward the close of the Age of Enlightenment. It contains many themes characteristic of the prevailing modes of thought germane to this period. First among these themes is Smith's emphasis on personal freedom. He argues that political and economic freedom are fundamentally synonymous, and that both are necessary for an optimally functioning economy. Like other Enlightenment thinkers, Smith gives primacy to the individual. He argues that self-interested persons also serve the interests of the general good; a society of such persons will sustain itself through the natural regulating functions of supply and demand. Second, Smith frames his Inquiry in a comprehensive, unified conceptual system redolent of Carl von Linné's encyclopedic works on taxonomy, and the philosophical structure in which Immanuel Kant posits the extent and limits of the domain of applied reason. Third, Smith's work is somewhat utopian in its assertion of the possibility of perfect equilibrium in the balance of trade, and of the ideal of sustained economic growth. Finally, Smith's work exhibits the optimism and faith in progress that is generally endemic to the major scientific and philosophical works of the eighteenth century.


The opening paragraphs of Book I, Chapter I, "Of the Division of Labour," introduce what is considered by Smith to be one of the fundamental sources of wealth: "the effects of the division of labour." Here Smith asserts that increased specialization necessitates an increase in consumable goods, and therefore both profit and stock - the requisites for additional economic expansion. In his typical style, Smith proceeds to clarify this general economic trend with a simple analogy, this one taken from a "very trifling manufacture Ö the trade of the pin-maker." Smith argues that even the most adept maker of pins is capable of producing only a few hundred pins per day, whereas a consortium of laborers, each attending to his specific portion of assembly-line manufacturing, will turn out several thousands of pins on any given day. Thus, the productivity levels for this specialized group of laborers is far greater than if they were each to manufacture pins singly. Their contribution to the general market and subsequent purchasing power (fluid capital) is amplified.


The passage is representative of Smith's perspicuous style, in which he endeavors to temper theory with empirical fact and circumstance in a subject "in its own nature extremely abstracted." Smith's efforts to explicate with clarity the laws and forces of a dynamic and evolving economic system gave rise to his authoritative Inquiry, a work whose tremendous impact continues to resonate among all the interconnected politico-economic systems of the world. Wealth of Nations is an example of typical "Enlightenment" thinking, and the great influence such thought continues to bear on our modern world.


Aaron W. Perry




Jean Le Rond D'Alembert and Denis Diderot, eds., Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. First published 1751-77; this New Edition from Genève, 1777-84.



The Enlightenment is known not only as the Age of Reason, but also as the "age of the encyclopedia." Enlightenment thinkers discerned a system of knowable laws underlying the whole of existence. As human knowledge of this system progressed, they believed, reason would triumph over superstition and ignorance, and freedom would replace tyranny. Their desire to ensure the progress of the human mind explains their efforts to organize and classify knowledge in large-scale reference works. Like the Greek conception of instruction (paideia) "in the whole circle" (en cyclo), eighteenth-century encyclopedias were designed to present a complete system of learning.


The Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (Encyclopedia, or Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, the Arts, and the Professions) is not only the most remarkable of these reference works, but also the most famous intellectual achievement of the Enlightenment. Written over twenty-five years by a team of such illustrious philosophes as Diderot, D'Alembert, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Marmontel, D'Holbach, and Turgot, it is comprised of seventeen volumes of articles and eleven volumes of plates, plus a supplement with four volumes of articles, another volume of plates, and two index volumes. It was originally conceived as a translation of Ephraim Chambers' two-volume Cyclopaedia, the first edition of which was published in London in 1728. John Mills, an Englishman residing in France, translated Chambers' work between 1743 and 1745, but after the unscrupulous practices of the king's printer deprived him of his royal privilege to publish the translation, he returned to England. His successor proposed to enlarge the work considerably, but resigned amid disputes with the publishers, who then offered the editorship to Diderot. After convincing the publishers to make the encyclopedia still more comprehensive than was originally planned, Diderot enlisted twenty-one contributors to write articles for the encyclopedia, and his friend D'Alembert agreed to edit the mathematics articles and to write the Discours Préliminaire which set forth the goals of the undertaking.


The Encyclopédie is renowned not only for its immense systematization of knowledge pertaining to the sciences, the liberal arts, and the mechanical arts, but also for the subversive criticism which its contributors employed to attack orthodoxy. Antireligious in sentiment, the work was condemned as atheistic by some, and denounced by others as contributing to the spread of deism. Its editors and collaborators were threatened with censorship and excommunication, and the compilation of the first volume was delayed by Diderot's imprisonment in 1749 for his Lettres sur les aveugles. Weary of controversy, D'Alembert resigned as co-editor in 1758.


Although the Encyclopédie remains a monumental accomplishment, most of its contributors were dissatisfied with the finished product. Diderot regretted that the articles were of unequal quality, and saw in the completed work too many errors of omission and imprecision. D'Alembert compared it to a harlequin's coat, a patchwork of finery and rags. However, if judged on the basis of its influence rather than the quality of individual articles, the work was wildly successful. It quickly spawned numerous translations and imitations, including a counterfeit version that was published in Geneva. It also inspired the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the first edition of which was published between 1768 and 1771.


Plate 17 of the surgical illustrations depicts a trepanning operation. An instrument resembling a carpenter's bit and brace is used to cut a circular disk out of the skull, giving the surgeon access to the exterior of the cerebrum. Other surgical plates depict eye operations, pelvic examinations, and mastectomies. There are no depictions of surgical procedures that involve the organs of the abdomen or chest cavity, because surgery in the eighteenth century was largely limited to the treatment of external maladies. By contrast, medicine - the prescription and administering of medicaments - was regarded as the science of treating internal disorders, a distinction that is stressed in the articles on surgery and medicine in the Encyclopédie. This volume shown is from the New Edition. Special Collections also owns the larger-format First Edition.


Prof. Ann Schmiesing




Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language. London, 1755.



In 1757, Reverend Dean Jacob Serenius, one of Johnson's contemporaries and author of an Anglo-Danish dictionary, wrote in a letter to Edward Lye that "nothing will be perfect, much less a Dictionary. But if anything comes near perfection it is that of your Johnson's work. I am astonished at the gentleman's labour which is enough for two men's life. Pray let me know the character of him and his employment."


This high evaluation, as well as the praise of several other contemporary scholars, shows the grandeur of Johnson's Dictionary, acknowledged as the dominant work in the field of lexicography throughout the following 100 years.


Johnson's Dictionary was the very first to comprise not only English words and their definitions, but also up to 116,000 quotations to illustrate the words and their usage. The quotations are primarily taken from the works of important English poets such as Milton, Dryden, Shakespeare and Swift, or from philosophical and religious writings. This accounts for Johnson's intention to make his dictionary not just a book that explains the meaning of words, but also a source of knowledge and education.


Although other dictionaries of the English language had been written before, Johnson's was the first one that most diligently distinguishes the various shades of meanings of each word; hence, the 134 entries for "take" or the 90 entries for "set." Containing about 40,000 entries, it is not as encompassing as prior dictionaries, but it is definitely more precise, and also provides etymological information. Moreover, Johnson's work has also earned its reputation due to the fact that it is not just a sober and boring dictionary. Be it either due to a prejudiced view or to his actual intention, some of Johnson's entries display a great deal of humor. An illustrative example is the definition of "excise," which nearly brought Johnson to jail. "Excise" is denoted as a "harmful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid." The addressed Commissioners of Excise felt so offended that they even tried to take Johnson to court for defamation, but they did not succeed.


In his definition of "lexicographer," he even amusingly pities himself by describing a man of this profession as a "harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words." These, as well as many other examples, have made the book popular for being useful and entertaining at the same time.


All of these observations are justified, and Johnson was very well aware of the defects of his Dictionary. He states that it is impossible to create an all-embracing lexicographical work, as language underlies a continuous change. New words are created; traditional words are replaced by foreign or technical terms, less-used words become obsolete, and so forth. To please the critics, Johnson accounts for this in his preface by stating that "the lexicographer [may] be derided who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay." Thus, he strictly states that his Dictionary is to be regarded as descriptive and not prescriptive, and he apologizes for all the mistakes or omissions that may occur.


On the whole, Johnson deserves great honor. First, he achieved his self-imposed mission to order the "chaos of language," and second, it took him only seven years to accomplish this enormous goal.


Sybille Strmiska




William Preston, Illustrations of Masonry. Portsmouth, 1804.



During the eighteenth century, Freemasonry spread from its Scottish-English roots across Europe, the American Colonies and Russia. Members of this secret society included such Enlightenment lords and luminaries as Frederick the Great of Prussia; an assortment of Princes of Wales, including the future Kings, George IV and William IV; the Duke of Lorraine, husband of Maria Theresa of Austria; Mozart, Haydn, Hogarth, G. E. Lessing, Horace Walpole and George Washington.


Freemasonry began as a medieval craft guild for Christian stone masons. In the sixteenth century Scottish masons initiated a few members of the aristocracy who were interested in antiquity. Those gentlemen carried the idea to England, where lodges were created as gentlemen's clubs. Freemasonry's language of friendship resonated with the Enlightenment's wave of fraternal feeling, but Masonic lodges also came to serve as places for the elite and upwardly mobile to network and wield political influence.


In Illustrations of Masonry, William Preston, himself a Freemason, compiles the constitutions, history and tenets of Freemasonry. His work reflects the transformation from the Old Charges of the medieval stone masons, with their Christ-centered, Catholic language, into ritual with such Enlightenment themes as "Reflections on the symmetry and proportion in the works of nature and on the harmony and affection among the various species of being."


The language reflects Enlightenment's belief in God's orderly creation and man's reason: "The inconceivable wisdom of an almighty being is displayed in the structure of the mind, which extends its power over every branch of science and is therefore a theme worthy of attention." Preston calls Freemasonry "Ö a store of valuable knowledge founded on reason." He describes the moral uses of the Masonic symbols. The square teaches one to harmonize his conduct by the principles of morality and virtue. The rule teaches Masons to observe their duty, while the compass reminds them of the limits of their duty. "You are never charged to do beyond your ability, only to prefer a poor Mason, who is a good man and true, before any other person in the same circumstance."


The book is open to Preston's citation of a letter from the English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke that reflects the enthusiastic interest in Freemasonry of many eighteenth-century intellectuals. In the letter, Locke shares a manuscript he has recently discovered that purports to be written in the hand of King Henry VI; "reputed to have been a Freemason." The manuscript reports on the examination of a candidate for the brotherhood. Locke writes, "Ö for my own part I cannot deny, that it has so much raised my curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the fraternity, which I am determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I am in London, and that will be shortly."


To preserve Freemasonry's secrets, Preston's original, like this American edition, was printed only for distribution to individual Masonic lodges by subscription. Preston states in his introduction that he wrote with the sanction of "the Most Respected Members of the Society" who had promised future financial support.


Carol Tiegs




Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. First published in 1774; this edition from Stuttgart, 1833-37.



Johann Wolfgang Goethe is perhaps the best-known German writer ever. He is most famous for his drama Faust, but he owes his popularity in large part to Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sufferings of Young Werther). Werther is a novel of Sturm und Drang, or Storm and Stress, a German literary movement of the sixties and seventies. In a major departure from the Enlightenment concentration on reason, order, and optimism, the Storm and Stress authors valued nature, genius, creativity, and emotion. Although Goethe himself was to become a Classicist, the Storm and Stress movement is generally seen as a precursor to Romanticism. Both the Storm and Stress and Romantic movements turn away from the Enlightenment focus on order, and share an emphasis on nature and the search for the inner self (Innerlichkeit). However, Storm and Stress is a more radical departure from Enlightenment values in its accentuation of passion and irrationality. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers is an exemplary novel of this period.


Werther was only Goethe's second substantial literary accomplishment, and its reception was astounding. It is credited with the creation of the modern novel in Germany. According to literary critics the Enlightenment resurrected the novel as a literary genre, but it was only with Goethe's Werther that the German novel received worldwide attention and was valued equally with the drama. When Werther, the work of a young and passionate German writer, appeared in 1774, it was widely read and extremely controversial.


The Enlightenment writers could not relate to the novel in any respect, as it was almost a complete break with Enlightenment values. One year after its appearance, Friedrich Nicolai published a short novel giving Goethe's Werther an ending fitting with Enlightenment thought. It was entitled Die Freuden des jungen Werthers, or The Joys of Young Werther. On the other end of the literary spectrum, the Storm and Stress writers and those attracted by its ideas overwhelmingly applauded the novel. While those who condemned the book called for censorship, those who lauded it went so far as to imitate the hero of the novel (Werther) in clothing and actions; a sort of Wertherfieber (Werther fever) broke out in Germany.


Die Leiden des jungen Werthers is based on Goethe's own experiences; in particular his love for a woman, Lotte, whom he could not possess. The young Goethe was so overcome with passion and suffering from the affair that he was thrown into a depression and contemplated suicide. Instead, he was able to funnel his emotions into the creation of Werther, a novel of anguish, ardor, and torment. The novel is written almost entirely in the form of letters and journal entries, some of which Goethe quoted verbatim from his own letters. The hero's experiences are a mirror of Goethe's, including the very name of the woman Werther loves, Lotte. However, the tale ends with Werther's suicide, an ending Goethe was influenced to write by the suicide of a close friend who had also been involved in an unrequited love affair.


The page featured in the display illustrates the opposition of the Storm and Stress values to Enlightenment ideals. The passage reads in English: "Nature alone is infinitely rich, and she alone forms the great artist. One can say much in favor of rules ... on the other hand any 'rule,' say what you like, will destroy the true feeling for nature and the true expression of her!" This quote contrasts the order and constraints of the Enlightenment with the Storm and Stress emphasis on the creativity and fervor that nature inspires. This page also comments on the "stream of genius" that springs forth when the emotion and creativity that one possesses is let loose, evidence of which is Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers itself.


Katherine Wank