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  • 02 janvier 2017 - 08:15
  • laurence villoz 2756 signes
Culture

L’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon, l’œuvre de pasteurs progressistes

Série «L’imprimerie et la Réforme»

L'Encyclopédie d'YverdonA la fin de XVIIIe siècle, Fortunato Bartolomeo De Felice publie l’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon opérant la synthèse du progrès scientifique et du protestantisme. Tirés à 3000 exemplaires, les 58 volumes réalisés essentiellement par des pasteurs naturalistes et progressistes illustrent l’expression des Lumières suisses.

Photo: L'Encyclopédie d'Yverdon (LDD)

Par Laurence Villoz

«En dix ans, Barthélemy De Felice va sortir les 58 volumes de l’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon, un véritable tour de force, car il faut reprendre et composer 75'000 articles en un temps record», explique Guillaume Poisson, collaborateur scientifique à l’Institut Benjamin Constant de l’Université de Lausanne. Fuyant l’Italie pour des raisons politiques et personnelles, dans les années 1750, le moine Fortunato Bartolomeo De Felice s’est réfugié à Berne. «A cette époque, le milieu patricien bernois est très éclairé et accueille volontiers des intellectuels, c’est une république extrêmement florissante au niveau des arts, des lettres et des sciences. De Felice se convertit au protestantisme par conviction et se fait rapidement remarquer par l’élite qui va le charger de créer une société typographique», explique l’historien.

Pour des raisons essentiellement pratiques, le moine érudit et spécialiste en physique newtonienne va ériger sa société à Yverdon. «Non seulement, cette petite citée se situe au bout du lac de Neuchâtel, donc elle est facile d’accès par la navigation, mais encore les moulins à papier se trouvent dans le Jura, il est par conséquent facile de s’approvisionner», souligne Guillaume Poisson. Sans oublier qu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Yverdon est une cité d’intellectuels. «C’est un lieu de rencontres et de passages, possédant une société économique ainsi qu’un cercle littéraire».

Une encyclopédie empreinte de protestantisme

Si De Felice commence par publier de nombreux ouvrages, notamment de littérature française et diverses traductions d'ouvrage à la mode, son plus grand succès consiste en la création d’une nouvelle encyclopédie. «Considérant les encyclopédies de Diderot et d’Alembert insuffisantes, car elles contiennent des erreurs et que la consonance protestante y est évincée, le scientifique crée sa propre Encyclopédie». Censurée en France et en Italie, cette œuvre magistrale comporte plusieurs particularités. «Réalisée par une trentaine de collaborateurs scientifiques venant majoritairement de Suisse, mais aussi d’Allemagne et des pays du Nord, cette entreprise est massivement suisse et pastorale», ajoute l’historien qui précise que les pasteurs suisses de cette époque étaient des historiens, naturalistes et scientifiques de premier plan.

Parallèlement à cette orientation protestante, De Felice y insère les dernières découvertes scientifiques, comme le paratonnerre. «Une autre originalité concerne Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Très à la mode, mais décrié et condamné, cet auteur est censuré en Suisse. De Felice qui connaît très bien ses œuvres réinjecte des parties de l’ouvrage Du contrat social notamment dans des articles sur l’esclavage et le gouvernement. Ainsi sans le savoir le lecteur de l’Encyclopédie accède à certaines thèses de Rousseau».

Tirée une seule fois à 3000 exemplaires entre 1770 et 1780, l’Encyclopédie va donner un coup d’élan monumental à l’entreprise du moine italien qui s’éteindra en même temps que son entreprise en 1788. L’Encyclopédie d’Yverdon sera diffusée en Suisse, en Allemagne, dans les provinces du Nord, ainsi qu’en France malgré la censure. Loin des clichés, «la Suisse au XVIIIe siècle est un lieu très stimulant pour les Lumières, que ce soit pour les sciences, la littérature, la presse, le théâtre ou encore la musique», relève Guillaume Poisson.

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