Étienne Chauvin

Étienne Chauvin. Lexicon rationale. Rotterdam, 1692.

Étienne Chauvin. Lexicon rationale. Rotterdam, 1692.

This is one of the earliest scientific encyclopaedias, and may well have inspired Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary, a classic work of the Enlightenment. The allegorical frontispiece shown here depicts Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Diana of Ephesus, Apollo, an astronomical observatory and various scientific instruments. The work’s author, Étienne Chauvin (1640-1725), was a French Protestant cleric who fled the religious intolerance of Catholic France and became a preacher in Venezuela. In 1695 he returned to Europe and became a leading proponent of Cartesian physics.