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To Quote or not to Quote: Citation Strategies in the Encyclopédie

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 74, Number 2, April 2013
pp. 213-236 | 10.1353/jhi.2013.0012



Ever since the first volume of the Encyclopédie was published in 1751, critics have complained about its liberal borrowings from other sources. This article explores some of the reasons why not citing other sources may have been an important publishing and philosophical strategy. Using a data-mining program that automatically flags likely matches between texts, we were able to identify thousands of citations and to discover clear citational patterns. Taking into account the complicated system of publishing permissions in Old Regime France, we show that many instances of non-citation occurred for books that were published anonymously and/or without a royal privilège. Accordingly, we argue that there was a “subversive style” of non-citation: by not identifying their references, contributors were able to incorporate into the Encyclopédie extensive passages of banned or forbidden books.

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