On 26 September 2023, the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) hosted the opening of Encyclopédie: le savoir en heritage, an exhibition which the Library organised in cooperation with the French Institute in Croatia as part of this year’s European Heritage Days. Spotlighting the 18th-century French encyclopaedia, a precious gem of both Europe’s and the world’s legacy of knowledge, the exhibition was opened through a special programme, including addresses by the Ambassador of the French Republic to Croatia His Excellency Mr Fabien Fieschi, Director of the French Institute in Croatia Ms Estelle Halimi-Dagron, Director General of the National and University Library in Zagreb Dr Ivanka Stričević and Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Côte d’Azur Pierre-Yves Beaurepaire, the exhibition’s curator, and bringing together some sixty visitors.
Selected original volumes of Denis Diderot’s and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie – whose publication started in 1751, as Encyclopédie, Ou Dictionnaire Raisonné Des Sciences, Des Arts Et Des Métiers – have been displayed as part of the exhibition, which thus gave the Croatian and international audience a truly unique opportunity to see first-hand and learn more about this major work of the French Enlightenment, Europe’s priceless cultural treasure and forerunner of Wikipedia and open science. Also featured were the reproductions of valuable cartographic material from the Library’s Map Collection illustrative of the exhibition’s theme.
The featured volumes, preserved as part of the Library’s Manuscripts and Old Books Collection, were presented in greater detail by Professor Beaurepaire, who also explained the historical context and circumstances surrounding the Encyclopaedia, since its compilation, during the Age of Enlightenment, to the present day.
The National and University Library in Zagreb, received the Encyclopaedia’s altogether 33 original volumes from the French Institute in Croatia for an indefinite period in 2021, as part of the activities marking the centenary of the Institute’s founding. Enabling this treasure’s return to Croatia, NSK now curates the volumes in adequate storage conditions, ready to carry out all conservation-and-restoration treatments necessary for ensuring their long-term preservation.
Also, the exhibition and related successful cooperation with institutions and officials representing France is ushering in a series of similar programmes with which NSK plans to mark European Heritage Days in the years to come by cooperating every year with another European country through programmes focusing on national cultural exchange and the promotion of international cultural ties.