Enlightenment Spain and the 'Encyclopedie methodique'.
Many Hispanists will have heard of the polemic surrounding Nicolas Masson de Morvilliers' entry "Espagne" in the Encyclopedie methodique, published in 1782. In its pages, Masson de Morvilliers posed a rhetorical question which incensed Spanish intellectuals and nearly set off an international incident: "Que doit-on a l'Espagne? Et depuis deux siecles, depuis quatre, depuis dix, qu'a-t-elle fait pour l'Europe? (What do we owe Spain? After two centuries, after four, after ten, what has she done for Europe?)" (2). While many scholars are familiar with Masson's infamous question, I suspect that far fewer will have read the original text, and fewer still will have studied Julian de Velasco's de-facto rebuttal article "Espana," which was published in the Enciclopedia metodica a decade later. The reason for this is that these texts have been difficult to obtain outside of archives, and hadn't been reprinted.
Thanks to the efforts of Clorinda Donato and Ricardo Lopez, eighteenth-century scholars now have a clearly laid-out, bilingual edition of both Masson and Velasco's texts (French-English, and Spanish-English, respectively). This volume aims to offer readers a holistic take on the Masson de Morvilliers incident, and will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable resource for students and researchers alike. It begins with an introduction by Clorinda Donato, whose expertise not only on the Encylopedie methodique but also in encyclopedias and the transfer of knowledge is evident from the onset. Her introduction aims to contextualize the polemic not only within the European intellectual and aristocratic spheres, but also within the framework of Spain's pluricultural's colonial enterprise. She does a thoughtful job of presenting readers with the multitude of pieces that factored in the Masson de Morvilliers controversy, and of preparing readers for their encounter with Masson's original article and Velasco's rebuttal.
The body of this volume is comprised of the two articles, in chronological sequence. In both cases, the editors offer a side-by-side translation into English, marking the first time that these texts have been translated into that language. It is clearly the editors' hope (as well as mine) that this will broaden the readership of these original works, and help to contribute to studies on the European and Atlantic Enlightenment, as well as the role of encyclopedias during this period. Both entries are sizable and feature a non-negligible amount of data, and readers will no doubt appreciate the footnotes provided by Donato and Lopez. In many instances, their notes help to underscore the palimpsest-like nature of Masson de Morvilliers' article which culled, copied and cobbled together different sources with varying degrees of fidelity.
The articles are followed by a section titled "Bibliographical notes," which serves as a glossary of names mentioned in the articles and offers a paragraph (or more, in some instances) of biographical information on the many figures cited. This will prove particularly helpful to a wide range of readers, and is a welcome resource in a multidisciplinary volume such as this. The fifth section, "Locating encyclopedic knowledge in the global eighteenth century: a bibliographical essay," is an original bibliographical essay by Brittany Anderson-Cain which serves as a coda to the introduction, and attempts to situate the Masson de Morvilliers polemic within a much larger political, cultural, and epistemological framework. It is also here that more recent scholarship--of which there has been plenty--is discussed, albeit briefly. As Anderson-Cain makes clear, any attempt to understand these texts and their intellectual and cultural context, must take into account a constellation of works and authors, "we must read and contemplate the genres of encyclopedism, journalism, travel literature, and history, whose practitioners are often not widely known" (279). This essay serves as a broad-stroke conclusion to the many debates engendered by the Masson affair, but more importantly as an appropriate jumping-off point for those readers aiming to further their study of eighteenth-century encyclopedias or the Encyclopedie methodique. That being said, it feels a bit like an orphan, since it is the only critical essay in this volume (aside from Donato's introduction), and the only contribution by an author other than the editors.
What Donato and Lopez have accomplished with Enlightenment Spain and the 'Encyclopedie methodique.' is to rescue these oft-discussed but seldomread articles, works "that have for so long been relegated to the proverbial dusty shelves of research libraries" (7). Thanks to their efforts and their excellent translations, we now have access, in the same volume, to one of eighteenth-century Spain's most fervent polemics. This work is a most welcome addition to eighteenth-century scholarship.
Matthieu P. Raillard
Lewis and Clark College
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|Author:||Raillard, Matthieu P.|
|Publication:||Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment|
|Article Type:||Resena de libro|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2016|
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