Voltaire Foundation

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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), the foremost 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]

Origin of the Voltaire Foundation[edit]

The original idea of a complete edition of Voltaire’s works seems to have risen from a joint initiative by W. H. Barber and O. R. Taylor to improve the inefficient Moland edition (1877-1885). The idea was enthusiastically taken up by Theodore Besterman, the founder of the Institut et Musée Voltaire in Geneva. The original plan was to create a critical edition with extensive scholarly apparatus, set out in a provisional table of contents covering the whole scheme in 146 volumes (subsequently enlarged to over 200 volumes by its completion planned for 2018).

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 extensive collection of books and manuscripts, which included many collective editions, to an elegant room in the Taylor Institution (the university centre for modern languages), which has space for 9000 volumes. This was renamed the Voltaire Room. Following Besterman’s death on 10 November 1976, the Voltaire Foundation was vested permanently in the University of Oxford. [3]

Since its inception the Voltaire Foundation has been awarded many awards in recognition of the project. These include the prestigious Prix Hervé Deluen, bestowed by the Académie Française.

The 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 to untangle the evolution of his thought. Each text is revealed anew thanks to an introduction, variants and a comprehensive annotation. The Works will comprise nearly 200 volumes by its completion in 2018.

The Complete Works of Voltaire includes the following sub-series: Corpus des notes marginales, Essai sur les mœurs, Questions sur l’Encyclopédie, Siècle de Louis XIV.

'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 the series. Strongly international in focus, 'Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment' publishes scholarly work in English or French to advance learning 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.


  1. ^ http://www.voltaire.ox.ac.uk/www_vf/default.ssi
  2. ^ "Voltaire Foundation Staff Page". 
  3. ^ Mason, Haydn. "A history of the Voltaire Foundation" (PDF). Retrieved 30 November 2012.