Acquisition of the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D'Alembert, was recorded in News from the Rare Book Room (vol. 2, no. 1, October 1966). The thirty-five folio volumes, uncut and bound in Dutch marbled paper over pasteboards, with handwritten labels, are made up of:
Text, 17 volumes
Plates, 11 volumes
Supplément, 5 volumes
Table, 2 volumes
The Supplément and Table present no problems. The Supplément - four volumes of text and one of plates - was printed in Paris by Stoupe and published there by Stoupe, Panckoucke and Brunet, and in Amsterdam by Rey, in 1776-77. (The Alberta set has the "Rey" imprint for the text volumes, the "Paris-Amsterdam" for the plate volume.) The Table was printed by Stoupe and published by Panckoucke and Rey in 1780.
What, however, was not realized in 1966 was that the main twenty-eight volumes are not what they purport to be-the original "Paris-Neuchâtel" edition of 1751-72-but rather the Geneva folio reprint. In 1768, three years after the appearance of the last text volume of the Paris edition, Charles Joseph Panckoucke proposed to Diderot that a revised edition be put out, but either because of the expense and competition from the Encyclopédie d'Yverdon (58 quarto volumes, 1770-80), or because of the interdiction of the Chancelier de Maupeou, the project was abandoned in favour of reprinting the original edition and adding a supplement. The first three volumes of text and the first volume of plates were ready for distribution early in 1770, when the Archbishop of Rheims had the whole text printing of 2000 copies seized and incarcerated in the Bastille. At this point Panckoucke reached an agreement with the Geneva printers Gabriel Cramer and Samuel de Tournes whereby the reprint was produced in Geneva: seventeen volumes of text (1771-74) and the last ten volumes of plates (1772-76).
The text of the reprint incorporates corrections, and in a few instances is revised; the plates had in many cases to be engraved afresh because of the deterioration of the originals. The Geneva edition is a literal reprint of the Paris, even to the extent of reproducing the imprints of the original, hence the frequent confusion between the two. However, John Lough has listed distinguishing marks by which the two can be differentiated, and on the basis of these the University of Alberta set is clearly the Geneva reprint, not the Paris original.
When George Rothrock published his article on the Encyclopédie, reproduction of the frontispiece from the Alberta set created considerable interest since it differs significantly from the original frontispiece in having three pressmen operating a printing press inserted at the lower left between the clouds and the representatives of those arts and professions that depend on the sciences. This frontispiece is loosely inserted, with a stub to act as a wrap-around in sewing, but the fold has never been pierced by a binder's needle. Beneath the plate are the ascriptions "Dessiné par C.N. Cochin...1764. Gravé par B.L. Prevost...1776." The date of engraving-1776-is that of the last volume of plates in the Geneva reprint; that is, the frontispiece to volume I of the text was produced along with the last volume of the plates, and hence the likelihood of its not being correctly bound in (Schwab, Part 1:255). Then Schwab described the Alberta frontispiece as a "curious variant version," but in a letter of 9 April 1971 he related having found several other specimens, both in the United States and Europe. Similarly the frontispiece to the Paris edition had been engraved in 1772 along with the last volume of the plates.
In 1966-67 a much reduced facsimile of the Encyclopédie was published by Frommann in Stuttgart, bearing claims to be the first edition, but the redrawn frontispiece-appearing not too surprisingly as the frontispiece to the last volume of plates-indicates that in at least this one instance the facsimile was, in fact, made from the Geneva reprint. Richard Schwab added other volumes to the list of false firsts in the Frommann facsimile. He deduced volumes VI, VIII, and XII of the text, and volumes I, X, and XI of the plates are from the Geneva reprint, while volumes I and II of the text are from what he calls the Honnold version, an early reprinting of volume I in its entirety and of volume II up to page 190 (Schwab, Part 2:413). So not only are there "a considerable number [of Geneva reprints] on the shelves of unsuspecting libraries, who have believed that they owned a set of the more valuable Paris original" (Watts, 219), but there are also an even larger number of mixed sets in facsimile.
Lough, John. Essays on the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. See especially chapter 1, "The Different Editions," and chapter 2, "The Panckoucke-Cramer Edition."
Rothrock, George A. "Diderot's Great Encyclopedia." History Today, 18, no. 4 (April 1968): 244-250.
Schwab, Richard N. "The Diderot Problem, the Starred Articles and the Question of Attribution in the Encyclopédie (Part I)." Eighteenth Century Studies, 2, no. 3 (Spring 1969): 240-285.
---. "The Diderot Problem, the Starred Articles and the Question of Attribution in the Encyclopédie (Part II)." Eighteenth Century Studies, 2, no. 4 (Summer 1969): 370-438.
Watts, George B. "The Swiss editions of the Encyclopédie." Harvard Library Bulletin 9, no. 2 (1955).