JOURNAL DES SAVANTS: Proofreaders, indexes, libraries; America, petroleum
First, a personal note. When my late mother found herself alone with two small boys (my sister was with my grandparents) to care for, her (and our) main means of subsistence was proofreading. I knew the word well before I understood what it meant. So I took a private delight in discovering an item in the Journal of 1721 (252) lamenting the lack of respect given this occupation:
It often happens that good Books, ..which have been printed on good paper with fine characters, are filled with printing errors which disfigure them. This defect comes... from the fact that printers and booksellers are more attentive to their private profit than to the public interest, not at all wanting to pay an honest remuneration to people skilled in reviewing proofs.
Plus ca change....
My mother also did indexing, as it happens, which was where I first learned the alphabet. I suspect she would have paled at the idea of a project like that begun around mid-century, to index all the volumes of the Journal des Savants from its start in 1665 to 1750.
The second volume of this effort - 1753-Tables 1665-1750 - T. 2 - BA-CE - includes several pages of references to libraries (bibliotheques), most private in this case. These references can prove frustrating, since they sometimes do
no more than cite the appearance of a catalogue, but also quite rich, as in the (non-index) volume of 1753 which, starting on page 763, describes the books owned by M. de Boze, a contributor to the Journal itself.
A similar situation exists with mentions of the "Cabinets of Curiosities" which were effectively private museums. The 1718 edition (319) lists the contents of a Monsieur Mercati's collection, and the 1744 edition (716) those of another.
Regrettably, no index was created for the volumes from mid-century to the Revolution. The next index appeared in 1860 and started in 1816, when publication resumed (after 19 years). Both that and the 1816 edition include overviews of the nature of the journal and its history.
Though thin, the 1816 edition includes a review (228 ff) of a book on Benedict Arnold's plot. The review offers a summary of the events in question, after some reflections on what was still a very young country, including this:
In explaining the effects of the liberty of the press in the United States, [the author] shows that it is the government that reaps its greatest advantages, and that there the clash of opinions, noisy as it may be, never ends but
by submitting them to the sacred rule of law."
Further on, among the country's disadvantages, the author (or the reviewer) lists "the fatal or dangerous slavery of blacks, which continues in the southern States."
In both 1719 (529) and 1752 (496), the subject of petroleum oil must have seemed less central than it does now. Like another modern energy source, electricity, it was then of most interest for its medical applications.
Finally, you may have read recently that a man in Italy tried to sue a priest for fraud for claiming that Christ once existed (he lost, and the judge suggested he be sued for slander). As it happens, the idea of subjecting religious matters to secular legal standards dates back not only to "Ally MacBeal" (which once, poignantly, showed a dying boy trying to sue God), but to at least 1753, when the Journal reviewed a book (originally in English) entitled: Witnesses to Christ's Resurrection Examined According to the Rules of the Bar.
Clarence Darrow would have loved that one.