An Alternative encyclopedia?

Dennis de Coetlogon’s Universal history of the arts and sciences (1745)

Author: Jeff Loveland

Volume: 2010:03

Series: SVEC

Publication Date: 2010

Pages: 276

ISBN: 978-0-7294-0992-6

Price: £70


The modern encyclopedia was born in the eighteenth century. Although numerous studies have shed light on its evolution, important participants have been neglected. Dennis de Coetlogon’s Universal history of the arts and sciences may be little known to us today, but its contribution to the development of the encyclopedia is as compelling as it is paradoxical.
Loveland examines the Universal history in its cultural context to provide the most detailed picture to date of the world of British encyclopedias in the first half of the eighteenth century. His lively analysis reveals how Coetlogon:
• flouted the emerging norms of encyclopedia-writing, combining impartial discourse with harangues, advertisements and personal revelations

• broadened the scope of the traditional dictionary of arts and sciences towards history, geography and religion

• included far fewer and longer articles than was customary in alphabetical works

• championed Christian and politically conservative values, providing a fascinating counter-model to the later French Encyclopédie

In triggering the adoption of serial publication by the owners of Chambers’s Cyclopedia, and establishing a model for alphabetized treatises taken up by the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Universal history was indeed an inspiration for the modern encyclopedia.

1. Coetlogon’s life and autobiography
2. The publication of the Universal history
3. The compilation of the Universal history
4. A novel organisational plan
5. Advertising in and around encyclopedias
6. A polemical encyclopedia


Recherches sur Diderot et sur l’‘Encyclopédie’

[…] cette recherche, appuyée sur une parfaite connaissance de la littérature critique – voir l’abondante bibliographie très à jour – constitue enfin une très intéressante contribution aux nouvelles voies d’analyse de la lexicographie historique comparée.

French Studies

In his Conclusion, Loveland argues that the study of little-known encyclopedias adds to our understanding of the more famous ones. This fascinating account of one such example will be of value to readers interested in many issues of publishing and readership in the eighteenth century.

Voltaire Foundation

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