A propos des Œuvres complètes ou comment tout a commencé

La toute récente réunion du Conseil scientifique des Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, qui eut lieu à la Sorbonne le 16 juin 2016, est à l’origine de ces réminiscences de Jeroom Vercruysse sur les débuts du projet:

Après un après-midi de travail lors du congrès de la SIEDS de Saint-Andrews (1967), René Pomeau me glissa dans l’oreille: ‘Venez avec moi, Besterman veut nous voir’. Que nous voulait-il? Je connaissais le personnage, il avait publié mon premier article en 1959 et ma thèse l’année précédente. Nous voilà dans un salon de l’Université où nous rencontrâmes Jean Ehrard, Owen Taylor et Samuel Taylor. Besterman, que j’avais déjà rencontré plusieurs fois, ne dérogea pas à ses habitudes quelquefois assez brusques. ‘Messieurs,’ nous dit-il, ‘êtes-vous d’accord pour entreprendre une édition complète et critique des Œuvres complètes de Voltaire?’ La réponse fut unanime, ‘oui’. Un verre de sherry confirma le propos.

Il ne restait plus qu’à réaliser ce projet dont certains collègues avaient déjà rêvé. Mais nous étions loin, moi surtout, le cadet (j’avais 31 ans), d’entrevoir l’ampleur, la durée et la difficulté de l’entreprise. Aujourd’hui, près de 50 années plus tard, la fin du tunnel est en vue. Mais que de chemin parcouru, de difficultés surmontées! Un mois après le congrès nous fûmes invités au célèbre Reform Club de Londres. En hôte parfait, Besterman nous régala d’un repas dans un salon de ce club si fameux. Et nous tînmes ensuite notre première réunion du Comité scientifique que nous étions devenus. Œuvres complètes, critiques, cela allait de soi. Dans quel ordre devaient paraître les futurs volumes? Quelle ligne de conduite serait suivie pour préparer les textes?

OCV team

La réunion du Conseil scientifique des Œuvres complètes du 16 juin 2016. Assis, de gauche à droite: Marie-Hélène Cotoni, Christiane Mervaud, Jeroom Vercruysse; debout, de gauche à droite: Gérard Laudin, Gerhardt Stenger, Nicholas Cronk, John R. Iverson, Sylvain Menant, Russell Goulbourne, François Moureau.

Il suffit de prendre en main l’un des derniers tomes parus: il ressemble comme une goutte d’eau au premier sorti des presses. De nombreuses allées et venues entre Bruxelles, Genève, Londres et Paris (sans oublier les réunions tenues au cours des congrès des Lumières successifs), un courrier abondant, tout cela marcha le plus tranquillement du monde. Le premier volume publié fut La Henriade, dont O. Taylor avait déjà fourni une édition critique dans les Studies on Voltaire; il la révisa, l’adapta aux normes convenues et l’entreprise prit la route. Besterman me confia La Pucelle d’Orléans qui, débarrassée de ses oripeaux séculaires, vit le jour en 1971. Entre-temps chacun des membres du Conseil apporta son écot à l’entreprise. Mais il apparut très vite qu’il fallait recourir à d’autres dix-huitiémistes afin d’assurer la préparation et la publication de textes si divers. Ce ne fut guère une entreprise aisée pour tous les éditeurs, particulièrement pour ceux qui se chargèrent des ‘grands machins’.

Besterman me ‘colla’ les Œuvres alphabétiques. Bien. Je me mis au travail, mais je dus également trouver des collaborateurs qualifiés. Le Comité étendit ses compétences, augmenta ses effectifs, se renouvela car malheureusement il eut à déplorer des décès et des retraits. Une fois les textes attribués, le Comité dut, au fur et à mesure de l’arrivée des copies, procéder à des relectures, formuler des critiques et des suggestions souvent délicates, recourir à de nouvelles compétences. Des milliers de pages passèrent de mains en mains. Tout cela se passa dans une entente parfaite, jamais un mot plus vif que d’autres ne fut prononcé, et près d’un demi-siècle plus tard, je constate que le Conseil scientifique élargi assure toujours bénévolement ses devoirs avec soin, avec compétence et avec rigueur. Nous envisageons la sortie des derniers volumes vers 2020. Plût aux dieux que je sois encore là pour dire simplement ‘enfin’! Utinam dis placet!

– Jeroom Vercruysse, professeur émérite Vrije Universiteit, Bruxelles

Besterman’s commitment to the Eighteenth Century is still alive

Besterman

Theodore Besterman in the late 1940s

I have always been intrigued by Theodore Besterman – the Voltaire Foundation’s founder. At 99 Banbury Road, Oxford – home of the Voltaire Foundation since 1993 – he is commemorated by a black bust sitting at the left end of the mantelpiece in the main room (which was named after him); at the right end of the mantelpiece sits a white bust of Voltaire, and a picture of a stern-looking Rousseau hangs on the wall between them. Our meetings are thus presided over by this august trio.

I had heard the name Besterman in my academic publishing career before joining the Voltaire Foundation, because as a bibliographer, he gave his name to the Besterman/McColvin Awards for reference works (in both print and electronic forms). These are awarded by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Mantlepiece

The mantlepiece in the Besterman Room at the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford

Tristram Besterman has just written a most informative personal memoir about his step-grandfather for the VF website. His account joins Giles Barber’s biography of Besterman as well as Haydn Mason’s history of the Voltaire Foundation.

One of Besterman’s many significant contributions to 18th-century scholarship was to found the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (or ISECS), the ‘umbrella’ organisation for all thirty national eighteenth-century societies worldwide. The VF still provides the secretariat functions for ISECS to this day.

ISECS holds an international congress every four years and the VF will of course be attending the next congress in July 2015 in Rotterdam. We hope to meet up with many of our colleagues, contributors and friends at our bookstand.

The Voltaire Foundation's stand at the Colonial Williamsburg ASECS

There will be plenary lectures given by Dan Brewer and John Robertson (author of OUP’s Very Short Introduction to the Enlightenment, due in September 2015). In 2019 the ISECS congress will be held at St Andrews, which was the location of the first congress, in 1967.

Besterman also started the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series (in 1955), formerly known as Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (or SVEC for short). After 60 years and over 500 books, it remains the leading series in the area of Enlightenment studies.

We are currently seeking to appoint a new General Editor of Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment.

The successful candidate would initially work alongside Professor Jonathan Mallinson who is standing down after 13 years. In 2016 he or she would take over as General Editor and be involved in appointing a deputy (who will be francophone if the General Editor is not, and vice versa).

Besterman’s legacy is still very much alive as demonstrated by the VF publications still rolling off the press – a new book in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series every month as well as six new volumes of the Complete works of Voltaire each year (the print edition is due for completion in 2018-2019). The VF’s blog gives an insight into the extended reach of our activities and some of our inner workings and musings – hence this blogpost.

– Clare

14th International Congress for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS 2015) Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 26-31 July 2015 Call for Proposals: panels/papers/posters

The Congress of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS) is the world’s largest meeting of specialists on all aspects of the eighteenth century, and takes place every four years. Recent ISECS conferences have been held in Dublin (1999), Los Angeles (2003), Montpellier (2007) and Graz (2011). The 14th ISECS Congress will be organized in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 26 to 31 July 2015. It is organized by the Dutch-Belgian Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (DBSECS – Werkgroep 18e Eeuw) and is hosted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam on Campus Woudestein. We can welcome more than one thousand participants.

The theme of the 14th ISECS Congress is Opening Markets: Trade and Commerce in the 18th Century. The program will include theme-related keynote lectures and sessions, as well as panels and round tables on all topics related to the long eighteenth century (1670-1830). The conference will also facilitate poster presentations. We are looking forward to inspiring lectures, debates and presentations on the conference theme and on all issues regarding the Age of Enlightenment and Sensibility.

Online registration is now open for:

  • Submission of proposals for panel sessions and round table sessions. The online Call for Panels is open from February 2014 until September 1, 2014. Submit a proposal through https://www.etouches.com/eselect/80715
  • Submission of proposals for individual papers or poster presentations. The online Call for individual Papers & Posters is open from June 2014 until January 12, 2015. Submit a proposal through https://www.etouches.com/eselect/92827
  • Pre-registration: You can e-mail the organizers (info@isecs2015.com) a request for pre-registration. By pre-registering, you subscribe to a newsletter that will keep you regularly informed about the organization of the ISECS 2015 Congress, including planned sessions, round tables and other meetings. The online Registration for the ISECS 2015 Congress will open from September 1, 2014 until April 30, 2015.

Don’t hesitate to distribute this call among interested colleagues and networks! If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact the local host committee via info@isecs2015.com or visit the conference website: http://www.isecs2015.com

ISECS 2015 is open to all persons interested in topics and issues having to do with the long eighteenth century and the Age of Enlightenment. Membership of an ISECS constituent or affiliated organization is not necessary for registration. The online Registration for the Early Career Eighteenth-Century Scholar Seminar will open in September 2014.

Instructions for Panel Session Submissions

The ISECS 2015 Committee invites those interested to organize thematic meetings in the program of the Conference to submit proposals for panel sessions and round tables. The submission of proposals for panels will be open until September 1, 2014. Panel organizers are requested to complete the online form at https://www.etouches.com/eselect/80715. Organizers are asked to supply information about the theme of the proposed panel and the panel members along with an abstract of their contribution to the panel meeting. Panels have a duration of one and a half hours, and should consist of 3 to 4 speakers (depending on the amount of discussion time the panel organizer wants to provide). It is also possible to submit a panel suggestion without concrete panelists or partly filled with panelists. In the coming months, we will present a list with panels accepting proposals on our website. Open panels will also be promoted through our newsletter.

Instructions for Individual Paper Proposals

The submission of proposals for papers is open until January 12, 2015. Participants in the ISECS 2015 Congress can submit one proposal for an individual paper. In the menu (https://www.etouches.com/eselect/92827), you will find a dropdown box with submitted panels that are open for paper submissions. Here, you can indicate which panel your paper could be part of. Paper proposals are reviewed by the scientific committee and by the panel organizers. The ISECS 2015 Scientific Committee is responsible for organizing the panels in which the papers and posters will be presented. Only registered participants can present individual papers and posters. Participants who intend to submit more than one paper proposal are requested to contact the organizers of the ISECS 2015 Conference (info@isecs2015.com).

Call for Posters

Are you involved in an interesting project or in an area of work that you would like to discuss with or show to other Conference attendees? Why not present your work in the ISECS Poster Sessions?

Format & Presentation

Your topic could be described on a printed poster or by photographs, graphics and pieces of text that you attach to the presentation panel. Posters in both English and French are welcome.

Presenters of a poster will be expected to be present on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 28-30 July, in order to explain their poster and to hand out any leaflets, or other information materials they have available for viewers of their poster. Each presenter can therefore only present one poster. Any organization that submits more than one application should indicate a priority to their submissions.

Conference participants interested in presenting a poster should complete the application form on https://www.etouches.com/eselect/92827. It is important that applicants describe how they intend to illustrate the project in the poster format. The poster has to be an experience in itself for the one who looks at it and should show awareness of the poster format. Special consideration will be given to ensure that a variety of topics and geographical/cultural range will be represented. The deadline is January 12, 2015. After the deadline, applications will no longer be accepted.

A jury representing the ISECS Organizing Committee will review all submissions and at the Conference they will select the winner of the ISECS Poster Award 2015 based on the criteria below. The topic of the poster should:

  • Look interesting and/or inspiring; Look lively;
  • Lend itself to a poster session; not be too abstract;
  • Present new ideas;
  • Be clearly explained;
  • Not duplicate another poster, nor have the same presenter as another poster
  • A presenter must be present during the poster session to explain the poster to viewers
  • Have a relationship to the theme of the 2015 ISECS Conference.
  • Describe a project that is ongoing or near completion, not one that is yet to start.

For useful tips & tricks on how to design a poster, see: http://www.uhd.edu/academic/colleges/sciences/scholars/files/workshop-poster.pdf

VF networking at 2014/15 academic conferences

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

In March I visited Colonial Williamsburg where I was ‘personning’ the bookstand at the annual ASECS.

I stayed at the Cedars B&B (rather than the plush conference hotel), and as usual I enjoyed meeting existing ‘friends of the VF family’ (those who already know of and have collaborated with us) and making new VF friends.

A visit to historic Jamestown

A visit to historic Jamestown

Over 900 academics attended to give papers on panels, network, and browse the book display – mostly to capture information for their libraries to order as well as make some individual purchases. Also to do some 18C tourism! My own tourism treat was a visit to the Jamestown settlement.

Other members of the VF team are also out and about this Spring/Summer.

In May, our MHRA Research Associate Nick Treuherz is giving a paper at the Virtue and Enlightenment conference at Reid Hall, University of Kent, Paris, and Nicholas Cronk is the co-organiser of an ITEM study day on Enlightenment manuscripts at the IEA.

In June, we always attend the Journées Voltaire organised by the Société des Etudes Voltairiennes (SEV), this year on the theme of Voltaire: les voyages de l’esprit libre?

In July, part of the final volume in the Correspondence of Mme de Graffigny is the subject of David Smith’s talk at the Graffigny colloquium at the Château de Lunéville, called the Versailles of Lorraine.

The Château de Lunéville

The Château de Lunéville

Also Lyn Roberts will be attending the Society for the Study of French History conference in Durham on the theme of History and the senses.

Looking ahead to 2015

The annual BSECS conference in January at St Hugh’s College, Oxford is on the theme of Riots, Rebellions and Revolutions.

The VF co-funds an annual travel prize.

The Voltaire Foundation's stand at the Colonial Williamsburg ASECS

The Voltaire Foundation’s stand at the Colonial Williamsburg ASECS

Many of us will be attending the next ISECS conference in July in Rotterdam on the theme of Opening Markets, Trade and Commerce in the Eighteenth Century. Founded by Theodore Besterman (who also founded the VF), this will be the 50th anniversary conference (and then for 2019 the ISECS conference returns to Scotland, where it started).

Will you be at any of these events? If so, please do get in touch via the comments or by emailing email@voltaire.ox.ac.uk – as always we’d love to hear from you!

–Clare

“Cette femme est un phénomène” (Pierre Enckell)

photo-9

Je viens d’être frappée par le fait que le projet Graffigny dure depuis presque trente ans maintenant! Le premier volume est apparu en 1985, et le quatorzième cette semaine (en tout, la Correspondance comprendra 15 volumes imprimés et un volume électronique). Avec plus de 2500 lettres à son actif, c’est un travail phénoménal mais nécessaire de l’éditer, car il s’agit d’une femme exceptionnelle qui nous fournit un témoignage hors-pair du dix-huitième siècle.

Malgré les nombreux obstacles que devaient surmonter les femmes au dix-huitième siècle, Françoise de Graffigny (1695-1758) était une romancière et dramaturge respectée, connue à travers l’Europe. Elle vivait indépendamment grâce à des succès tel que Cénie et Lettres d’une Péruvienne. En tant que salonnière, elle était à la tête d’un réseau comprenant les figures principales du siècle des Lumières. Sa correspondance offre donc un aperçu unique de l’histoire intellectuelle de la France et de la condition féminine au dix-huitième siècle.

photo-8

Le projet d’édition est international, sa base est dans le département de français à l’université de Toronto, coordonné par J. A. Dainard. Le tome 14 édité par Dorothy P. Arthur et D. W. Smith est dédié à Pierre Enckell, un membre indispensable de l’équipe, qui malheureusement est décédé en 2011. Le prochain volume sera préparé par D. W. Smith et dirigé par English Showalter. Nous espérons pouvoir célébrer ce dernier volume imprimé de l’édition à la conférence ISECS à Rotterdam en 2015!

-Pippa Faucheux, publishing manager

PS Pour en savoir plus sur cette femme extraordinaire: consultez la biographie Françoise de Graffigny: her life and works par English Showalter.