Scientific Knowledge of Animals in Encyclopedias from around 1700 to 1860

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters
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In this article we examine scientific knowledge of animals and disciplines pertaining to them in British, French, and German encyclopedias from around 1700 to the time of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. As our corpus includes scholarly encyclopedias with entries on animals written by specialists, our article is meant to help define the place of the animal in the period’s developing scientific conceptions. At the same time, our goal is to study differences in the representations of animals among encyclopedias, notably between popular and scholarly encyclopedias. By studying the sources of encyclopedias’ entries on animals, we will establish the pathways by which representations of animals were formed, thus connecting knowledge of animals to commercial and literary processes. By studying the intellectual premises of the entries, we will connect knowledge of animals to reading publics, thereby illuminating the status of encyclopedias as intermediaries in the movement of knowledge.