Artisanal Enlightenment: Science and the Mechanical Arts in Old Regime France

2017
 
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? Making a radical change of historical protagonists, Paola 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 insightful analysis of textual, visual, and material sources, Bertucci provides a groundbreaking perspective on the politics of writing on the mechanical arts and the development of key Enlightenment concepts such as improvement, utility, and progress.