Diderot’s Encyclopédie, a landmark, profusely illustrated work of the French Enlightenment, contained 72,000 articles written by more than 140 contributors on the arts and sciences. The entire encyclopedia was published between 1751 and 1772 and ultimately comprised 17 volumes of text, accompanied by 11 volumes of illustrative engravings. The subjects included areas of scientific inquiry such as anatomy, geology, and mineralogy, and of technology, including architecture, fireworks, agricultural and maritime equipment, surgery and the tools and methods of artisans and various professions. The sealife prints are from the volume devoted to “the three realms of natural history” — animals, plants and minerals. “The impact of the Encyclopédie was enormous. Through its attempt to classify learning and to open all domains of human activity to its readers, the Encyclopédie gave expression to many of the most important intellectual and social developments of its time.” (ARTFL Project)
Robert Bénard is said to have contributed at least 1,800 engravings to Diderot and Alembert’s Encyclopédie, credited variously as either engraver (sculp) or director of the printmaking workshop (direxit). He also worked on the plates for Cook’s travel journeys and wrote a monograph on silk for Description des arts.
Dimensions of the prints are as follows:
Anatomie, Plate I: 13.75 x 8.75 inches, plate mark; 15.5 x 10 inches, overall
Anatomie, Plate II: 13.75 x 9 inches, plate mark; 15.5 x 10 inches, overall
Anatomie, Plate III: 14 x 8.75 inches, plate mark; 15.75 x 10 inches, overall
Anatomie, Plate V: 13.75 x 8.75 inches, plate mark; 15.75 x 9.75 inches, overall
Condition: Each recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, otherwise only with light wear.
“Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.” ARTFL Project, University of Chicago. May 2007. http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/projects/encyc/ (7 March 2008).
Werner, Stephen. Blueprint: A Study of Diderot and the Encyclopédie Plates. Birmingham, AL: Summa Publications, 1993. p. 17.