Artisanal Enlightenment

Photo of the cover of the book titled "Artisanal Enlightenment."

Paola Bertucci, associate professor of history

(Yale University Press)

In “Artisanal Enlightenment,” Paola Bertucci asks: What would the Enlightenment look like from the perspective of artistes, the learned artisans with esprit, who presented themselves in contrast to philosophers, savants, and routine-bound craftsmen?

Bertucci places the mechanical arts and the world of making at the heart of the Enlightenment. At a time of great colonial, commercial, and imperial concerns, artistes planned encyclopedic projects and sought an official role in the administration of the French state. The Société des Arts, which they envisioned as a state institution that would foster France’s colonial and economic expansion, was the most ambitious expression of their collective aspirations.

Artisanal Enlightenment” provides the first in-depth study of the Société, and demonstrates its legacy in scientific programs, academies, and the making of Diderot and D’Alembert’s “Encyclopédie.” Through analysis of textual, visual, and material sources, Bertucci provides a perspective on the politics of writing on the mechanical arts and the development of key Enlightenment concepts such as improvement, utility, and progress.

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