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Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary (1740)

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With the assistance of Carla-Bayle and the Midi-Pyrénées and Rhône-Alpes regions

In four years of tireless work (1693-1696), Pierre Bayle wrote and published his Dictionnaire historique et critique in eight folio volumes of 4000 pages. Composed of exceptionally small typography, the work totals approximately 45,000,000 characters.

The Dictionnaire is composed of articles on catholic and reform theologians (Augustine, Jansen, Luther, Calvin, Beza…), heretodoxies (Anabaptists, Ochin, Socin, Alciato, Blandrata…), as well as on a variety of sects (Abelians, Adamites, Mamillaires, Picards, Turlupins…). Significant articles are dedicated to well-known Bible figures (Abraham, Eve, David…), and various mythological figures (Jupiter, Juno, Helen, Ajax, Hercules…); the articles dedicated to the ancient philosophers (Democritus, Epicurus, Chrysippus, Leucippus, Pyrrho, Zeno of Elea…) allow us to examine the coherence of their doctrines and to compare them to modern systems.

Pierre Bayle established the Dictionnaire as a masterpiece symbolizing the “peaceful war” of intellectuals, or rather, the critical debate, permanent and pacifist, characterizing the Republic of Letters, in which the “empire of truth and reason” is recognized (art. "Catius").

The immense work immediately became the sine qua non reading of young philosophers and an inexhaustible source for the period’s clandestine manuscripts. It soon became one of the principal sources for Enlightenment philosophers and for Diderot and Alembert’s Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.


Literature, philosophy, rationalism, theology, skepticism, history

Author of the Database

Claude BLUM (Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne)

Editorial Team

Directors of Research Antony McKenna, Institut d'Histoire de la Pensée classique (CNRS UMR 5037), Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne
Gianluca Mori, Groupe National de Recherche sur la philosophie moderne, de la Renaissance aux Lumières, Université du Piémont Oriental

Scientific Commitee Lorenzo Bianchi (Naples, L'Orientale), Hubert Bost (EPHE, Paris), Hans Bots (Nimègue), Wiep van Bunge (Rotterdam), Jean-Michel Gros (Paris), Jonathan Israel (Princeton), Pierre-François Moreau, (ENS Lyon), Gianni Paganini (Vercelli), Maria-Cristina Pitassi (IHR, Genève)

Research Teams Institut d’Histoire de la Pensée classique (CNRS UMR 5037: Lyon-Saint-Etienne), directeur, P.-F. Moreau; Groupe de recherche sur la tradition de la Renaissance, le libertinage et les Lumières, Naples, L'Orientale, directeur, L. Bianchi; Groupe National de Recherche sur la philosophie moderne, de la Renaissance aux Lumières (Université du Piémont Oriental, Vercelli), directeur, G. Paganini; Laboratoire d'Etudes sur le Monothéisme (LEM, CNRS UMR 8584), directeur, O. Boulnois; Institut Pierre Bayle (Nimègue), directeur, Chr. Berkvens-Stevelinck; History of Philosophy: the early Enlightenment in the Dutch Republic (Université Erasmus, Rotterdam), directeur, W. van Bunge; Institut d’Histoire de la Réformation (Genève), directrice, M.-C. Pitassi