DIDEROT, Denis. Machines de Théâtre (Staging Devices) Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Plates vol. 10 Paris (1772)
Folio, 253 x 393mm. 7 pages of descriptive text & 49 loose plates with their accompanying 4 text sheets from the volume of plates. Slight browning to margins, a little spotting otherwise very good.
The 49 plates and descriptive text for the entry of Machines De Théâtres from volume X of plates. The first set of plates contains twenty-seven numbered plates, with 14 double sheets (paltes 1-6, 11-16, 18 & 26) alongside 4 triple sheets (7, 8, 9 & 10). The second set of plates contains twenty-two numbered plates, and all of these are double sheets. Plate 22 is damaged, with edges and caption frayed.
2 pages (132 & 184) from volume III of the Encyclopédie (1753) including La machine par laquelle toute la décoration change dans le même moment and Char
2 pages (443 & 583) from volume VI of the Encyclopédie (1756) including information on Faux-chassis and Les machines qui pendant le cours des fêtes de la cour
1 page (800) from volume IX of the Encyclopédie (1765) including Les anciens
1 page (239) from volume XII of the Encyclopédie (1765) including La machine appellée pegma
1 page (413) from volume XVI of the Encyclopédie (1765) including La machine pour le tonnerre
With some browning to a few leaves.
Included in the selected articles which accompany this suite of plates, is the main entry for Machines de Théâtres by Abbé Edme-François Mallet. Although he wrote around a thousand of the articles, these are most often on subjects regarding philosophy, history or literature. He was a useful guide for the Encyclopédists as to what religious ideas and statements would be allowed, but here we see the scholar out of his usual constrained context, describing theatrical devices and using his extensive knowledge of literature. He gives a succinct, yet informative, overview of the devices and their history as a whole.
The plates provide an invaluable guide to the backstage of the theatre in the 18th-century. Many plates are very factual, but were original and ahead of their time. With some measured drawing, the illustrations describe the creation of a ship in a stormy sea, and the raising and lifting of objects from the floor, among other devices. Several of the later plates show the machines and rigging used, and then elegantly illustrate the desired effect as seen on stage. A number of plates depict in vivid detail mechanisms for representing waterfalls and other natural phenomena, indicative of the range of invention of the French 18th-century set designer. Other contraptions include sophisticated and avant-garde mechanical devices, such as false-floors, the creation of volcanic eruptions and the destruction of buildings by fire. The Opéra de Paris and the Palais Royal are used as particular examples of this great and refined period of theatre design.
The plates were each drawn and described by Rodel, a Pensioner of the King and a chartered architect, under the direction of Giraud, who served as the mastermind behind several large festivals and worked as a stage-setter at the above mentioned Opéra de Paris.