The Spectacle de la Nature in Eighteenth-Century Spain: From French Households to Spanish Workshops

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This paper analyzes the Spanish appropriation of one of the great French eighteenth-century best-sellers, the Spectacle de la Nature (1732--1750) by the abbé Antoine Nöel Pluche. In eight volumes, the abbé discussed current issues in natural philosophy, such as Newtonianism, the origin of fossils, artisan techniques, natural history, machines, gardening or insect-collection in a polite-conversation format. It was translated into English (1735), Dutch (1737), Italian (1737), German (1746) and Spanish (1753). But the four Spanish editions were very different from their European counterparts. In Spain, it was delivered in 16 carefully printed and extensively commented volumes. In Pluche's original, there was a concern for the young gentleman's education, new pedagogical methods and an enthusiastic defence of experimental knowledge. However, Le Spectacle in Spain was conceived as a useful tool for modernizing the country, it served political and propagandist goals, defended Spanish culture and science (in particular with respect to American flora, fauna and geography) and the Jesuit contribution to science and aimed to harmonize experimental knowledge and scholastic tradition. The analysis of the more than 1500 footnotes, prefaces, some readers’ comments and other questions related to the format gives insight on how it was appropriated
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-282
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


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