The current implementation of the Encyclopédie under PhiloLogic allows users to follow renvois (cross-references) links (within operational limits to be outlined below), but does not support searching and navigating the renvois in any kind of systematic fashion. Since this is something we think warrants further consideration, we thought it might be helpful build an experimental cross-reference navigator. We thus wrote a recognizer to extract metadata for each article in the Encyclopédie which has one or more renvoi. As part of the original development of the Encyclopédie, each cross reference was automatically detected from certain typographic and lexical clues. This resulted in roughly 61,000 cross-references. Accordingly, the extracted database has 61,000 records. We loaded these into a simple MySQL database and used a standard script to support searching and reporting. The search parameters may include article headwords, authors, normalized and English classes of knowledge as well as the term(s) being cross referenced.
Keep in mind this is an experiment, please see our many Caveats below.
Links to Headwords - Headword links work the same as our main headwords searches, which is to say a multi-directional string search. For example, searching for the string "Feu" will return all headwords in which the string "feu" occurs, eg., AFFEURAGE, COEFFEUSE, FEUTRE, etc. This issue can be addressed in the headword search box by using regular expressions, e.g., "^feu" will return entries beginning with "feu"; "bail$" entries ending with "feu"; "^feu$" entries with only "feu." Unfortunately, this is not an option for the cross-reference links, since a certain degree of flexibility in the links is desired, so clicking on headwords in this build will sometimes provide a much larger list of articles than one might be expecting.
Links to Renvois - The right-hand column of the cross-reference navigator lists all of the known cross-references for a given article, along with links to any renvois that may exist in that article. In the event that there are no known cross-references for a given article, then the search returns an error message stating: "Sorry, no matching records for query: " and then the entire SQL query. While ugly, it is important to see the full query for debugging purposes, the 'back' button on your browser will take you back to the results page.
"Missing" Headwords - It should be noted that search results for the cross-reference navigator only returns articles in which at least one renvoi has been recognized -- therefore searching for articles that have no known renvois, such as "GASCOGNE" for example, will return an error message even though that article exists in the main database. This is a cross-reference navigator, and not an exhaustive build of the Encyclopédie.
This is an Experiment - This is a first, of many we hope, experiments in trying to visualize/navigate the Encyclopédie's system of cross-references - feel free therefore to contact with any questions, concerns, or further ideas.
Future corrections/directions for the cross-references
As noted above, the renvois were identified automatically. And as with most of these things, it worked reasonably well. But you will see link errors and other things which indicate problems. Where you see a link error there is (probably) a recognizer error, which either failed to get a string to link or got confused by some typography. The linking mechanism itself is based on string searches. In other words, whenever you click on a renvoi, you are in fact performing a search on the headwords. This simple heuristic works reasonably well, returning string matched headwords. In some cases, you get nothing because there is no headword that has the renvoi word(s), and at other times you will get quite a list of articles, which may or may not include what the authors/editors intended. It is, of course, well known that many renvois simply don't correspond to an article and many others differ in various ways from the article headwords.
Ideally, one would go through the entire database, examine each renvois and build a direct link to the one article that the authors/editors intended -- which would also mean generating unique and stable IDs for each article, which would be used moving forward. This is by no means a small undertaking, we're talking 60,000+ renvois against 74,000 (or so) articles and it is not clear the amount of editorial work that would be needed to resolve some of the thornier cross-references -- headword disambiguation is one such problem (for example, an editor would need to decide which of the at least 11 different articles with the headwords "Charge" is the object of any given renvoi to "charge") and there are certainly many others.