Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique
Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique stands as the supreme achievement of one of the seventeenth century's most prominent men of letters. Based in Rotterdam, Bayle animated intellectual discussion in Europe through his work as editor and author and as a prolific correspondant. Originally conceived as a response to the errors in Louis Moréri's Grand dictionnaire historique, his Dictionnaire historique et critique grew to be an exemplary work of critical methodology. The author painstakingly compiled, compared, questioned, seeking some degree of historical certainty, however small. The Bayle Dictionnaire has been called the "Arsenal of the Enlightenment", pillaged and re-edited throughout the eighteenth century by believers and sceptics alike who gathered ammunition for philosophical argument in the work's recondite notes. In addition to the eight French editions in fifty years, the Dictionnaire was translated into English (two versions, 1709, 1734-1741) and German (1741-1744).
Said Voltaire: “the greatest master of the art of reasoning that ever wrote, Bayle, great and wise, all systems overthrows.”
In Diderot's famous Encyclopédie Bayle is mentioned in more than 100 articles.
This third edition is well described in an American Book Exchange (ABE) listing for the four volumes priced at $4,200, which is excerpted below:
Pictures of the first page of the text and the start of the entries for Dante and Thomas Hobbes are shown below.
Included with the book are two contemporary books on Bayle's dictionary explaining its significance as well as providing selections from the Dictionary. The covers of the included books are shown below. The first provided an introduction and extensive selections from the Dictionary translated by Richard H. Popkin and the second book edited by Sally L. Jenkinson analyzes his political writing and again the bulk of the text is excerpts from the Dictionary.
This wonderful work of the Enlightenment which was well read by the Founders of the American Republic is a foundation work of Western Civilization which sought to break the twin barriers to reason and liberty, monarchy and state established religion.
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