The project / le projet…

La pensée des lumières: Enlightenment thinking is an experimental digital text portal designed to help students find and use the primary texts written and published in the French Enlightenment. The project is not comprehensive nor is it complete; it will focus to a large extent on a few thinker/writers, among them: Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau and d’Alembert.

[Illustration de Astrocopia compendiaria] / [Non identifié] ; Christian Huygens, aut. de texte
[Illustration de Astrocopia compendiaria] / [Non identifié] ; Christian Huygens, aut. de texte
Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

One of the reasons a project like this is needed has been loosely described at The Long Eighteenth. However, this site does not intend to rely solely on a subscription-based collection such as Eighteeenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). This project will rely mainly on open digital sources and tools (whose enhancements in some cases can rival ECCO), such as those digitized by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Gallica), Internet Archive and Google Books. Thus, readers need no affiliation with a subscribing institution to take advantage of most links presented here.The difficulties mentioned at The Long Eighteenth remain the same however: digitized primary sources of the nature of those in ECCO or in the sources pointed to in this site are of limited pedagogical use when presented in the classroom. I hope that the site is a support for those wanting to introduce online primary texts into classroom activities and ultimately I’d like to provide a space for conversations about how to best incorporate digital primary texts into the classroom right here.


I am a librarian fascinated by the primary document. Because I think there is much to be gained from seeing the image of the primary document, the first part of this project has linked to sources that were scanned as image files as opposed to those where the words of the document have been stripped from the image (text files). However, because readers need to access text files for reading and other purposes, I have been experimenting with the plugin for a companion site where readers could access the text files in addition to the image files. I hope to encourage public commentary and collaborative discussion with this move.

The project is supported by the University of Ottawa Libraries / Les bibliothèques de l’Université d’Ottawa.


  1. This looks like a fabulous, evolving project, and one that really opens up an interesting vein of online scholarship and pedagogy. I fully intend to use this in upcoming classes of mine, undergraduate and graduate. Good luck! DM, The Long Eighteenth

  2. Quel projet fantastique, et comme cela s’annonce bien ! À peine un mois depuis son ouverture, et déjà riche d’informations et de liens. Je vais assurément utiliser cet outil dans mes cours. Merci beaucoup et bonne chance pour la suite. MRB, Département de Philosophie, Université d’Ottawa.

  3. Excellent-looking site, great texts ! I will use it too ! You should have a place where people can share their own texts, too (e.g. I have a few downloads from google books of 18c french texts by others such as bonnet and maupertuis).
    Good luck and thanks.
    Charles Wolfe

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