Eighteenth-Century English Versions of Pierre Bayle’s Dictionary: A Computational Study

Eighteenth-Century English Versions of Pierre Bayle’s Dictionary: A Computational Study

The Bayle Group explored the English Versions of Pierre Bayle’s Dictionary on the occasion of the Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon (DHH21) that took place online.

The sections 1. through 6. above lead you to the long texts and plots of the project. For a brief overview have a look below.

The project in a nutshell:


Reasons why computational study of Bayle’s Dictionary matters
  • Focuses on a research question that has been relevant in scholarship for centuries and can now be studied with computational methods
  • Gives the audience a blueprint to understand the complicated history of the English editions of Bayle’s Dictionary
  • Pilots the study of intertextuality based on Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), Early English Books Online (EEBO), and literally hundreds of thousands of books
  • Forms a proof of concept to cope with dirty OCR in a research question that requires precision with respect to source material
  • Builds on collaboration between traditional humanities and data science’

Data and methods
  • Full text OCR corpus based on ~300,000 titles in ECCO and EEBO
  • Text reuse dataset prepared with bioinformatics software BLAST
  • ESTC Metadata collection was used to further enrich data
  • Significant amount of manual work was devoted to further enriching the texts in three editions of Bayle’s Dictionary (1710, 1734a, and 1734b) with metadata on articles
  • Data analysis was conducted by quick iterative interplay between various quantitative methods from basic statistical approaches to network analysis, and qualitative close reading

Pierre Bayle and his Dictionary
  • Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) was a philosopher and lexicographer of French Huguenot origin and an author of the Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697, 1702)
  • Bayle wrote his dictionary as a correction to Louis Moréri’s Grand Historical Dictionary (1674).  Bayle considered the Moréri dictionary as inaccurate, overtly subjective, and outdated; in response, Bayle compiled his dictionary with the mindset of it becoming the new standard in reference material.
  • The first English translation of the Dictionary was published in 1710 followed by two competing editions in 1734. One of these editions was included in the General Dictionary (1734) with nearly 900 new entries prepared by British authors.
  • Voltaire said: “the greatest master of the art of reasoning that ever wrote, Bayle, great and wise, all systems overthrows.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • Did you know? Bayle devoted his life entirely to scholarship, but like so many other eighteenth century scholars, he managed to also be a perfect gentleman
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