A new exhibit opens in the MIT Libraries’ Maihaugen Gallery (14N-118) on Wednesday, Feb. 3, titled "Technology and Enlightenment: The Mechanical Arts in Diderot’s Encyclopédie," which explores one of the most important and controversial publications of the 18th century, Diderot’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.
This massive work became infamous in its day as an enlightened attack on French and European religious dogmatism and monarchical inefficiency and injustice. Containing more than 2,500 elaborately engraved plates, it documented the mechanical arts and technology, placing equal importance on the manual trades as the arts and sciences.
Curated by Jeffrey S. Ravel, associate professor of history, and Kristel Smentek, assistant professor of art history, the exhibit features fascinating images chosen from the 32 original folio volumes owned by the MIT Libraries, as well as multimedia components illustrating the Encylopedie’s significance. The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Thursday during gallery hours, and runs through July 2010.