*The Following description of the "18th" Volume is drawn from the works of Douglas Gordon and John Lough, cited below.
I. What is the "Eighteenth" Volume?
In 1933, an American scholar and book-collector named Douglas Gordon stumbled upon a book listing for a set of the 18th century Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert. Gordon was not particularly interested in the French enlightenment, but decided to purchase the set anyhow, intrigued by the fact that it contained an extra volume full of handwritten versions of the "Discours préliminaire," letters between several of the Encyclopédie's collaborators, and corrected page proofs of actual articles from the Encyclopédie.
This "Eighteenth" volume of theEncyclopédie had found its way into the catalogue of American bookseller Arthur Rau by way of a group of German booksellers, who themselves had bought it sometime in the 1930s from the Soviet government. The volume is bound in red morocco, and its cover stamped with an unidentifiable coat of arms. This intricate binding and strangely untraceable insignia, coupled with the volume's sudden and inexplicable apparition in the middle of Russia, lent a certain air of mystery and intrigue to the book.
By far the most exciting content in this extraordinary volume are the 284 pages of corrected article proofs, comprising 46 articles submitted by Diderot which were subsequently censored or altered by the publisher Le Breton before the final printing of the Encyclopédie. For nearly two hundred years, the question of covert censorship of Diderot's work was one of the most perplexing problems in Encyclopédie scholarship. In a 1764 letter to Le Breton, Diderot wrote that Le Breton had massacred and castrated his work; in her memoirs, Diderot's daughter Madame de Vandeul recalled that the discovery of Le Breton's censorship almost convinced her father to abandon the entire work of the Encyclopédie; in private letters, Diderot's close confidant Friedrich Grimm alluded that Le Breton was a "crazy murderer" who had left the Encyclopédie in "mutilated fragments." Yet as adamant as these three were that Le Breton had censored the Encyclopédie, scholars knew next to nothing about the scope or global effect of this censorship until the discovery of the 18th volume.
II. What's on the Page? The page proofs in the 18th volume show several different markings that reflect the publishing process of the Encyclopédie. First, a team of editors typeset the articles, turning handwritten submissions into clean page proofs. The majority of the markings visible on each page are standard and legitimate editor's marks, correcting spelling or typographical errors. These proofs were then returned to Diderot, who checked their accuracy and marked either "Bon à tirez" or "Corrigez et tirez" if revisions were necessary (in cases where Diderot reviewed the proof a second time after such a revision, he marked, "J'ai revu cette seconde"). I have marked Diderot's margin notes in bold font, and have tried to indicate in square brackets the approximate location of these notes on the page. Where words were illegible or incomplete, I have followed John Lough's transcription work to make the notes readable (see recommended reading).
After Diderot approved the page proofs, Le Breton exercised his censorship of the text by striking out phrases he found offensive, supplanting them with ideas he deemed more appropriate, removing controversial paragraphs, and in a few cases suppressing entire articles. Words and phrases Le Breton scratched out from the articles are marked in a red font, while content that he inserted into the text is marked by an underscore. Symbols in the articles are otherwise consistent with the rest of the Encyclopédie (articles Diderot signed with an asterisk remain marked as such, for example). The only exceptions are a few extra-textual notes, which are marked with red daggers (†).
At the top of each article is a link to an image of the corresponding page proof in the 18th volume. For comparison purposes, following the article headword in parentheses is a link to the article as it was originally published in the Encyclopédie. The articles Sectes du Christianisme and Tolérance as well as the subarticle Théologie Scholastique were suppressed in their entirety, so for the obvious reason these pages contain only links to the appropriate page images of the 18th volume.
III. Evaluating the Censorship The 18th volume was an extraordinary discovery for scholars of the Encyclopédie, but the problem of evaluating the effect of Le Breton's censorship on the work as a whole is far from solved. Indeed, the page proofs of the 18th volume seem only to raise even more questions about the nature of the censorship.
By Arthur Wilson's count, the 284 pages of proofs in the 18th volume show an aggregate 12,800 word alterations, insertions, or deletions from Diderot's originals. This figure may lead the reader to sympathize with Diderot's sentiment that Le Breton had "mutilated" the Encyclopédie and had rendered it "insipid and empty." Indeed in some instances, the impact of Le Breton's censorship is strong and evident, such as in the case of articles he doctored heavily (see Pyrrhonienne or Sarrasins) or the three articles he omitted entirely from the Encyclopédie.
Yet viewed in another light, the 18th volume's 284 pages of censored proofs represent just over three percent of the 9,000 total pages of articles in the last ten folio volumes of the Encyclopédie. Pagination is accurate and column size standard throughout most of the Encyclopédie's volumes, supporting the notion that the 46 articles in the 18th volume represent the full extent of Le Breton's censorship. In several articles, Le Breton's "censorship" fails to remove the pervasive spirit of critical inquiry which was unique to the Encyclopédie.
For example, in Machiavelisme, where Diderot discusses Machiavelli’s bold suggestion that he would rather end up in hell with Socrates, Alcibiades and other famous pre-Christian ﬁgures than with Peter, Paul, and the other ''boring'' founders of Christianity in heaven, Le Breton’s only change to the article is to strike out the words labeling the disciples as ''plats,'' so that the phrase in Le Breton’s version reads: ''ll disoit qu'il aimoit mieux être dans l'enfer...que dans le ciel avec les fondateurs du christianisme.'' To be certain, in toning down Diderot’s evident criticism of Christianity, Le Breton’s edit moderates what could be considered the most controversial part of the article. Yet the rest of the article, which still expresses radical sympathy with Machiavelli’s rejection of the promise of heaven, is left almost entirely intact.
It is clear that judging the impact of the censorship upon the Encyclopédie is a task that requires examining the very articles in question. In his letter to Le Breton, Diderot lamented the destruction of his work, mistakenly believing that article manuscripts had been burned and that reconstruction of the articles by an honest party was impossible: "Encore s'il était possible d'obtenir de vous les épreuves, aﬁn de transcrire à la main les morceaux que vous avez supprimés!....Je n'insiste pas sur cette restitution qui est de droit: je n'attends rien de juste ni d'honnête de vous." This simple restitution of the articles, as Diderot intended for them to be published, is the principal aim of this project.
IV. Recommended Reading - Diderot, Denis. ''Lettre à Le Breton.'' In vol. 19 of Oeuvres Complètes de Diderot, edited by J. Assézat and Maurice Tourneux, 469-470. Paris: Garnier Frères, 1875. - Lough, John. The Encyclopédie in Eighteenth-Century England and Other Studies. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Oriel Press, 1970. - Gordon, Douglas H. and Norman L. Torrey. The Censoring of Diderot’s Encyclopédie. New York: Columbia University Press, 1947. - Grimm, Friedrich Melchior. Correspondance littéraire, philosophique, et critique, adressé à un souverain d'Allemagne. Vol. 1, parts 1-3. - Vandeul, Madame de. ''Mémoires sur Diderot.'' In vol. 1 of Oeuvres Complétes de Diderot, edited by J. Assézat and Maurice Tourneux, xlv. Paris: Garnier Frères, 1875. - Wilson, Arthur McCandless. Diderot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.