Bayle against the Brexit Blues

Feeling hemmed in by narrow frontiers? Harassed by the ‘natives’ for being interested in the world outside? Feeling cut off from Europe, not to speak of bleak political circumstances and ominous financial predictions?

You are in urgent need of a slice of intellectual life from the 17th and 18th centuries – and Pierre Bayle can bring you a big slice of the Republic of Letters. You will find all you can comfortably handle in the 15 volumes of the Correspondance de Pierre Bayle published by the Voltaire Foundation.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury.

In the 22,500 unusually erudite notes of this edition, discover Bayle’s international network of some 16,500 contacts (ideal for crowd-funding and name-dropping), his reference library of some 40,000 books (excellent for scholarly articles and cocktail conversation), his close relations with influential British politicians such as William Trumbull, the third earl of Shaftesbury, the duke of Sunderland, James Vernon – and even with the notorious Antoine de Guiscard, shortly before his attempt to assassinate Robert Harley. Discover with horror Shaftesbury’s feeble arguments against the “infestation” [sic] of our fair Isles by hordes of Huguenot refugees Letter 1751]! Accompany Fatio de Duillier on his travels between London and Cambridge to visit Newton [Letter 1300,
n.5]. Follow the two fellows named Alexander Cunningham [Letter 1359, n.1], who both wander around Europe and visit Leibniz, and see if you can tell them apart.

Was Bayle a sceptical historian of philosophy who kept out of mischief by never adopting a definitive position himself ? Was he a covert Epicurean atheist, denouncing religious fanaticism and bigotry ? Or was he a sincere believer with a very modern form of fragile faith? You must read between the lines and make up your own mind! Immerse yourself in the 15 volumes of his correspondence and gain an insight into the real goings-on at the heart of the Republic of Letters, precursor of a much-maligned modern Europe.

Antony McKenna

Le Dodo et le rhinocéros: Voltaire au pays des merveilles

Polémique sur les espèces en voie de disparition? Non. Fable de La Fontaine? Non plus… Il s’agit des illustrations du dernier tome des Questions sur l’Encyclopédie. Les Questions ne parlent pas que de l’Encyclopédie. A travers les quelque 440 articles qui composent cet ouvrage on est confronté aux souvenirs personnels de l’auteur, aux lectures qui l’inspirent, à ses marottes, à ses réactions devant l’actualité entre 1770 et 1772. Inhabituellement, car Voltaire n’est pas particulièrement connu comme amateur des beaux-arts, il évoque, dans l’ultime volume de cet énorme regroupement d’articles, deux gravures, l’une représentant un rhinocéros, l’autre un dodo.

rhinocerus

La première est célèbre; c’est le ‘Rhinocerus’ d’Albrecht Dürer. La référence chez Voltaire est cependant oblique. Dans le bel article ‘Rare’ il affirme que le rare ‘excite l’admiration’ et il poursuit: ‘Un curieux se préfère au reste des chétifs mortels quand il a dans son cabinet une médaille rare qui n’est bonne à rien, un livre rare que personne n’a le courage de lire, une vieille estampe d’Albert-dure, mal dessinée et mal empreinte’. Mais pourquoi penser qu’il y est question du rhinocéros? Deux pages plus loin, Voltaire achève son article en évoquant le rhinocéros Clara, dont l’étape parisienne, en 1749, de sa tournée européenne (1746-1758) fut commémorée par Jean-Baptiste Oudry (ci-dessus). Voltaire est au moins brièvement à Paris en 1749. A-t-il vu Clara? Il en aurait certainement entendu parler.

Le nom du dodo, connu dès le dix-septième siècle à partir des écrits d’explorateurs tels que Thomas Herbert et François Cauche, est comparé à Dôghdu, la mère du prophète Zoroastre, par le savant anglais Thomas Hyde, dans un livre que Voltaire possède dans sa bibliothèque, gravure à l’appui. Voltaire, qui prend plaisir à tourner en dérision les mythes, ne résiste pas à la tentation de resserrer le lien dans son propre article ‘Zoroastre’, où il fait mention explicite de la gravure qu’il a vue dans son exemplaire: ‘Pour sa mère, il n’y a pas deux options, elle s’appelait Dogdu, ou Dodo, ou Dodu; c’était une très belle poule d’Inde: elle est fort bien dessinée chez le docteur Hyde’.

Sur le plan zoologique, outre le dodo et le rhinocéros, les Questions consacrent des articles aux abeilles, au bouc, au chien, aux colimaçons, au serpent… Si Christiane Mervaud n’avait pas déjà écrit ses Bestiaires de Voltaire, le sujet serait à inventer.

QE

Les Questions sur l’Encyclopédie

-Gillian Pink

Judging a book by its binding

Photo by irene

Waddesdon Manor

Anyone who has visited Waddesdon Manor will have been struck by the Morning Room, in which rows of impressively large books are carefully encased in cabinets. For most visitors, these books remain nothing more than particularly expensive decorations since there is little opportunity to handle or open them.

Thankfully, recent projects have been lifting the covers (as it were) on the contents, revealing satirical and rabble-rousing content that contrasts with the seemingly royalist surroundings. Waddesdon Manor was built in the late nineteenth century in a neo-Renaissance style by Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleurs for the baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Ferdinand was a historian fascinated by early modern France and Waddesdon Manor features many royal relics including Marie-Antoinette’s desk, and the large state portrait of Louis XVI by Callet. With rooms filled with Sèvres porcelain, and tapestries from the royal Gobelins and Beauvais workshops, Waddesdon exudes opulence rather than radical politics.

This fascinating disparity was exploited by my colleague Paul Davidson and me, when we co-curated an exhibition at Waddesdon in 2011, called ‘A Subversive Art: Prints of the French Revolution’, to demonstrate the radical content of four such volumes: The Tableaux de la Révolution. Our method to entice visitors to the exhibition was to create a treasure-hunt-like trail throughout the manor, leaving incendiary prints of Louis XVI, Madame de Polignac, Marie-Antoinette, and the Duc d’Orléans next to their rather more grandiose depictions. While the exhibition is now over, you can still consult the contents of the volumes online, and through these series of videos featuring Katherine Astbury as well as Paul and me.

These are by no means the only books at Waddesdon Manor whose content may surprise you. The Saint-Aubin Livre de Caricatures tant Bonnes que mauvaises is an incendiary book from the age of enlightenment. A mixture of politically astute commentary and scatological sketches, it is also available to consult online, and is the subject of an important study edited by Colin Jones, Juliet Carey and Emily Richardson.

image-medium

However, if the binding itself intrigues you as much as the content, then Waddesdon’s Catalogue of Printed Books and Bookbindings, edited by the Voltaire Foundation’s late founder Giles Barber, will certainly be of interest. This catalogue of French 18th century books and bindings at Waddesdon will be published later this year.

Claire Trévien

“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.

The Online Republic of Letters

Moll_-_A_new_map_of_the_whole_world_with_the_trade_winds

Welcome to the Voltaire Foundation’s first blog. We are the publishers of the first critical edition of Voltaire’s Complete Works, as well as monographs in the SVEC series touching on all aspects of eighteenth-century culture, history and literature. As a publisher and research department of the university of Oxford, we are fascinated by networks. After all, if Voltaire were alive today he would no doubt be a prolific social networker, blogging incendiary material, fuelling large Facebook thread debates and over-using #infâme on twitter.

In this spirit, this first post is a gateway to the online eighteenth-century community with links to interesting blog posts, databases and projects, to further encourage a network of exchange.

Network Databases

  • Epitomising the spirit of this blog post is the Mapping the Republic of Letters project. Based at the University of Stanford, this interdisciplinary and international project has been shepherding huge amounts of data acquired from the correspondence, travel and social networks of early-modern writers. To see this research in action, you can watch Scott Spillman and Julia Mansfield’s paper on Benjamin Franklin. For access to eighteenth-century letters, there is of course Electronic Enlightenment, an online collection of edited correspondence, which gives users access to over 60,647 historical documents.
  • Also focused on networks is The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe project, which uses database technology to map the trade of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel, a Swiss publishing house that operated between 1769 and 1794 and published Voltaire among others. The database allows you to see for instance when and where books were sold and is an invaluable tool for understanding how the book trade operated in eighteenth-century Europe.
  • Candide, the ultimate Bildungsroman, built from a network of tales from across the globe, is now available as a free enriched digital edition thanks to a collaboration between Orange, the BnF and the Voltaire Foundation. We were present at a talk on 24th March at the Salon du Livre in which the BnF’s Thierry Grillet spoke of Candide as a blank page printed upon by his experiences and the characters he encounters. This idea of a base text enriched by layers is one that translates to this app, which can be used as a simple book but really rewards further exploration with its additional materials: videos, iconography, and opportunities for further discussion.

Trading Diseases

Finally, for a different type of networking, here is a blogpost by Alun Whitney on James McKittrick Adair’s 1790 book Essays on Fashionable Diseases, in which the physician discusses the contagion of heroic suffering. As Whitney writes:
‘letters became filled with narratives of illness, commonly with the writer fashioning themselves into the role of embattled victim, wrestling with almost overwhelming symptoms and constantly surprised that they even had strength to hold a pen.’
Sounds like Voltaire!

 9780729410656-cover

If this tickles your fancy, you might be interested in our latest SVEC monograph, Medicine and narration in the eighteenth century, edited by Sophie Vasset, which explores the overlapping narrative strategies in the writings of novelists and doctors.

What are your favourite eighteenth-century online resources? Do make the most of the comment box to share.

Claire Trévien, research editor.