Voltaire Library database

In collaboration with ObTIC (Sorbonne), the Voltaire Foundation is constructing a database of all the books and manuscripts known to have been in Voltaire’s library, including those that are known to have been part of it but for various historical reasons were separated from the main collection, whether because Voltaire himself gave them away as gifts, or they were integrated into other collections as a result of internal reorganisations within the National Library of Russia.

It will contain records of each of the works and documents that Voltaire owned and is known to have read, giving standard bibliographical information, subject classification, and will allow visualisations of Voltaire’s personal collective volumes, known as his ‘pots-pourris’, which collected multiple items, both print and manuscript, into bound volumes. This open-access resource will ultimately link to Digital Voltaire, further enriching both resources: each record will then constitute a miniature ‘hub’ for the presence of the work in Voltaire’s writings, including marginalia in his copy, places in his own works where he refers to or uses it, and references to it in his notebooks. The bulk of the data entry has been done, and work has begun on the user interface.

The Voltaire Foundation is grateful to the John Fell Fund (University of Oxford) for a grant in support of this project, and to Natalia Speranskaya, head of the Voltaire Library at the National Library of Russia, for her help in answering our queries.

The breakdown of books in Voltaire’s library in the category ‘Belles-lettres’.

The main sources used are:

  • Библиотека Вольтера: каталог книг [Voltaire’s Library: catalogue of books], ed. M. P. Alekseev and T. N. Kopreeva (Moscow, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1961)
  • Sergei Korolev, ‘Liste détaillée des livres de Voltaire conservés à Saint-Pétersbourg, en dehors de sa bibliothèque’ in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol.144B, p.695-739
  • Gillian Pink et al., Notes et écrits marginaux conservés hors de la Bibliothèque nationale de Russie in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol.145
  • Fernand Caussy, Inventaire des manuscrits de la bibliothèque de Voltaire (Paris, 1913; repr. Geneva, Slatkine, 1970)

People involved in this project:

Voltaire Foundation

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