Antoine Furetière

Antoine Furetière
Born (1619-12-28)28 December 1619
Paris, France
Died 14 May 1688(1688-05-14) (aged 68)
Occupation Scholar, writer, Catholic clergyman
Nationality France

Antoine Furetière (28 December 1619 – 14 May 1688), a French scholar, writer, and lexicographer, was born in Paris and died in the Netherlands.


He studied law and practised for a time as an advocate, but eventually took orders and after various promotions became abbé of Chalivoy in the diocese of Bourges in 1662. In his leisure moments he devoted himself to letters, and in virtue of his satires—Nouvelle Allégorique, ou histoire des derniers troubles arrivés au royaume d'éloquence (1658) and Voyage de Mercure (1653)—he was admitted as a member of the Académie française in 1662. The academy had long promised a complete dictionary of the French language; and when the members heard that Furetière was on the point of issuing a work of a similar nature, they interfered, alleging that he had purloined from their stores and that they possessed the exclusive privilege of publishing such a book.

After much recrimination on both sides, Furetière was expelled in 1685; but he took revenge in his satire, Couches de l'académie (Amsterdam, 1687). His Dictionaire universel was posthumously published in 1690 with a Preface prepared by his friend Pierre Bayle. The second edition (1701) and the third edition (1708) were revised and improved by the Protestant jurist Henri Basnage de Beauval (1656–1710); they were published with the title Dictionnaire universel. A fourth edition of the Dictionnaire universel, edited by Brutel de la Rivière, appeared in 1727. In each edition, the spelling of the French word for dictionary in the title matches the spelling of the corresponding headword within the work.

Furetière also wrote Le Roman bourgeois (1666), which cast ridicule on the fashionable romances of Madeleine de Scudéry and of Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède, and described the everyday life of his times, especially the legal profession. Because of its similarity to Paul Scarron's Le Roman comique (1651, 1657), it was translated into English as Scarron's City Romance in 1671. With a self-conscious narrator who comments on his techniques and disregards the conventions of the novel, it anticipates Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy in many ways.[1] A collected Fureteriana appeared in Paris eight years after his death.

Publication History of the Dictionnaire Universel

At the behest of Louis Auguste, Prince of Dombes, the Jesuits of the Collège of Louis le Grand in Paris literally copied the 1701 edition of Furetière's Dictionnaire universel before editing the work to suppress deviant Protestant notions. The Jesuit version was printed in 1704 outside Lyon at Trévoux, then the capital of Dombes; the same press at Trévoux also published the Jesuit periodical Journal de Trévoux, which appeared monthly from 1701 until 1782. The Jesuits even plagiarized the name of Furetière's work: the title given on the title page of the Jesuit editions was Dictionnaire universel françois & latin; the words "françois & latin" were appended to the title because the Jesuits appended a brief Latin-French dictionary to the last volume of their editions. Although almost immediately known as the Dictionnaire de Trévoux to distinguish it from the dictionary of Furetière, these words did not appear on the title page until the last edition in 1771, which followed the suppression of the Jesuits in France. Further work on the Dictionnaire de Trévoux came to an end after the removal of the Jesuits from Paris.[2][3][4][5][6]

The 1721 edition of the Dictionnaire de Trévoux significantly expanded Basnage de Beauval's edition of Furetière's work; however, quite remarkably, while material was added to articles, very little existing material was removed or even reworked: additional material was simply bolted on to the text of the 1704 edition of the Trévoux dictionary. The first most visible difference between the 1701 edition of Basnage de Beauval and the 1721 edition of Trévoux is a tweaking of the abbreviations of the names of the authors cited in the articles of the dictionary.

Subsequently, Brutel de la Rivière updated his 1727 edition of Furetière's dictionary largely by copying material added by the 1721 edition of the Trévoux dictionary.


  1. Steven Moore, The Novel, An Alternative History: 1600-1800 (NY: Bloomsbury, 2013), 800 n.253.
  2. Robert Collison. Encyclopaedias: Their History throughout the Ages. New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1964.
  3.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Furetière, Antoine". Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 357.
  4.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Trévoux". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 257.
  5. Richard Yeo. Encyclopaedic Visions: Scientific Dictionaries and Enlightenment Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  6. Dorotea Behnke. Furetière und Trévoux: Eine Untersuchung zum Verhältnis der beiden Wörterbuchserien. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1996.

External links

Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Antoine Furetière.
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