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The Maurists' Universal Dictionary of Arts, Crafts and Sciences: A Monastic Reflection of the French Enlightenment

Research project The history of an abandonned scientific dictionary, compiled by Benedictines in mid-eighteenth-century Paris, parallell to the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert.

My PhD thesis explores a hitherto unstudied dictionary of arts, crafts and sciences, compiled in Paris ca.1743-1755 by the Benedictines of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, also known as the Maurists. The project coincided in time with the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert, (1751-1772). However, while the dictionary of the philsophers became known as the most important medium of Enlightenment thought, the Maurists’ project eventually was abanonned and forgotten. I am examining the history and content of the Maurists' dictionary with the purpose of positioning and understanding it in the context of the intellectual activities of the Congregation, the contemporary encyclopedic genre and Enlightenment culture.

Project overview

Project period:

2009-09-01 2014-03-07

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious studies

Project description


My PhD thesis explores a hitherto unstudied dictionary of arts, crafts and sciences, compiled in Paris ca.1743-1755 by the Benedictines of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, also known as the Maurists. This project coincided in time with the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert (1751-1772). However, while the latter became known as the most important medium of Enlightenment thought, the Maurists’ project eventually was abanonned and forgotten. For about 260 years, these manuscripts have evaded the attention of historians, and their history of production has remained unknown. The preserved material consists of six volumes in-folio, a total of 7 000 articles and about 200 illustrations.
I am examining the history and content of the Maurists' dictionary with the purpose of positioning and understanding it in the context of the intellectual activities of the Congregation, the contemporary encyclopedic genre and Enlightenment culture. The thesis has an interdisciplinary approach and combines perspectives of history of science and ideas, monastic history and book history.

Discipline: History of science and ideas

Key words: The Congregation of Saint-Maur, the Maurists, Dom Antoine-Joseph Pernety, the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert, Charles-Antoine Jombert, the French Enlightenment, history of encyclopedism, history of science, history of monasticism, history of the book.