Voltaire Foundation

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99 Banbury Road, Oxford: home to the Voltaire Foundation

The Voltaire Foundation is a research department of the University of Oxford founded by Theodore Besterman in the 1970s. It publishes the definitive edition of the Complete Works of Voltaire (Œuvres complètes de Voltaire), as well as Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (previously SVEC, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century), a monograph series devoted to the eighteenth century, and the correspondences of several key French thinkers.[1] It is part of Oxford's Humanities Division and is directed by Professor Nicholas Cronk.[2]


In the 1950s, the bibliographer and translator Theodore Besterman started to collect, transcribe and publish all of Voltaire's writings.[3] He founded the Voltaire Institute and Museum in Geneva where he began publishing collected volumes of Voltaire's correspondence.[3] During the final years of his life, Besterman opened discussions with the University of Oxford. These culminated in him naming the university his residuary legatee and arranging for the posthumous transfer of his collection of books and manuscripts, which included many collective editions, to the Taylor Institution (the university centre for modern languages). The Institution dedicated a room as the Voltaire Room in January 1975, to house Besterman's collection and The Taylor Institution's own.[4] Following Besterman’s death on 10 November 1976, the Voltaire Foundation was vested permanently in the University of Oxford.[5][6]

Complete Works of Voltaire[edit]

The Complete Works of Voltaire (Œuvres complètes de Voltaire) is the first critical edition of the totality of his writings, arranged chronologically. Each text is published with an introduction, variants and detailed annotations.[5] A provisional table of contents listed 146 volumes, since expanded to 200 volumes by completion of the series, which is planned for 2018.[7][6] In 2010, the foundation was awarded the Prix Hervé Deluen [fr] by the Académie Française for this fifty-year project.[8]

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (previously SVEC)[edit]

Since its inception as Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century in 1955, nearly 550 books have been published within this series. It publishes scholarly work in English or French across a broad range of disciplines, including history, the history of ideas/philosophy, the history of the book, theatre, literature, visual arts and music, science and economics, and gender studies.[5][9]


  1. ^ "Voltaire Foundation: Welcome".
  2. ^ "Voltaire Foundation Staff Page".
  3. ^ a b Barber, Giles (2004). Besterman, Theodore Deodatus Nathaniel (1904–1976). Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ "Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland, Österreich und Europa (Fabian-Handbuch): Taylor Institution Library". fabian.sub.uni-goettingen.de. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  5. ^ a b c Mason, Haydn. "A history of the Voltaire Foundation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b Julia, Aurélie (October 2011). "Voltaire à Oxford, The Voltaire Foundation". Revue des Deux Mondes (in French). English translation at voltaire.ox.ac.uk (PDF) Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Johnson, Michael (23 January 2010). "Voltaire the Survivor". The International Herald Tribune. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  8. ^ "University of Oxford - French toast". Times Higher Education (THE). 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2016-06-22.
  9. ^ "SVEC Online Index". Retrieved 2016-06-22.

External links[edit]

Media related to Voltaire Foundation at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 51°46′04″N 1°15′44″W / 51.7678°N 1.2621°W / 51.7678; -1.2621