Questions sur l’Encyclopédie

Rediscovering the Questions sur l’Encyclopédie

The Questions sur l’Encyclopédie stands as Voltaire’s longest work, and yet it is one of his least known.

In the complete critical edition under the direction of Nicholas Cronk and Christiane Mervaud, scholars explore fully for the first time the relationship between the Questions and its named object of enquiry – Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. They also assess the complex techniques by which Voltaire fashions new material through extensive copying and borrowing from his earlier publications.

Questions sur l’Encyclopédie was a real tour de force: some 440 articles on diverse subjects which amused and fascinated the septuagenarian Voltaire. After having nearly disappeared, Questions is surfacing again today in all its originality and irreverent splendour, thanks to the work of an international team of Voltaire specialists.’

Professor Robert Darnton, Harvard University

The work as a whole, written and revised principally between 1770 and 1774, is a compendium of Voltaire’s views on a broad range of subjects including religion, history, art and literature. It varies greatly in style and tone – from joking asides and fleeting observations to long and complex disquisitions. It casts new light on familiar themes – justice, humanity and tolerance – and explores many new ones, constituting finally, in Voltaire’s own words, ‘un livre moral, fait en forme de dictionnaire’.

The Voltaire Foundation’s new edition of the Questions in eight volumes is the first authentic edition of this work to appear in over two centuries.

 

Reviews

‘On mesure à chaque instant ce qu’a d’indispensable une pareille édition qui laisse au lecteur le plaisir de discerner les différentes voix de Voltaire, d’apprécier ce qui relève du rôle, quelque peu cynique, que s’assigne le maître des Lumières. […] la science des annotateurs rivalise avec celle de l’auteur et la prolonge.’

Jean Dagen, Revue Voltaire (2011)

 

‘Le travail d’édition est exemplaire. […] Les notes, d’une érudition sans faille, éclairent les allusions et précisent les sources de Voltaire, ainsi que les liens à ses autres œuvres. Les variantes des différentes éditions sont signalées de la façon la plus complète possible. A la fin de chaque volume se trouve la liste (impressionnante) des ouvrages cités et un index des noms propres.’

Colas Duflo, Archives de Philosophie (2011)

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