While many book prospectuses, considering their ephemeral nature, are little more than simply printed single-sheet advertisements, some are rather lushly printed to showcase the beauty and importance of the book they are advertising.
One such example from the Newberry’s Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials is a prospectus for the 1771 edition of the Dictionnaire universel françois et latin, commonly known as the Dictionnaire de Trévoux after the French city in which it was first published in 1704.
The Dictionnaire de Trévoux was a much-published encyclopedia during the Enlightenment, and precedes Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s famous Encyclopédie, first published in 1751. The title page of the prospectus more or less reproduces that of the 1771 Trévoux. Measuring 36 cm. in height and printed in red and black ink, this prospectus was likely expensive to produce.
On the verso of the title page is a list of 15 booksellers who comprise the Libraires associés, the publisher of Trévoux. Considering the expense of printing an illustrated folio 8-volume work, it is likely that pooling resources among several booksellers was the only way to realize this undertaking.
This uncommonly beautiful piece of ephemera showcases the importance placed on reason, learning, and scholarship in 18th-century France and underscores the mounting interest in the encyclopedia as a literary genre during this time.