About Voltaire’s writings

It has been estimated that, in a career which stretched over sixty years, Voltaire’s extant writings ran to some fifteen million words and covered just about every topic and genre conceivable in his day. Everything concerning the œuvre seems larger than life, and it is hard to make any simple assessment of it. ‘Complete’ editions appeared in Voltaire’s lifetime; the last, published in Geneva in 1775, ran to forty volumes. The first complete edition of Voltaire’s writings after his death, known as the Kehl edition, was published on the eve of the Revolution (1784-1789) in seventy volumes. Our edition – which will comprise 203 volumes when complete – is the standard edition of reference today.

Histories

Voltaire was named royal historiographer (historiographe du roi) in 1746, and history was to form an important component of his literary production. Two of his most famous works, the Essai sur les mœurs and his Siècle de Louis XIV, are primarily historical, the first a history of the world, as Voltaire saw it, and the second focussing on the previous century in France. Read more…

Letters

Voltaire’s correspondence has been called his masterpiece. Theodore Besterman’s ‘definitive’ edition of the correspondence (1968-1977) includes more than 15,000 letters, but these surviving letters must represent only a fraction of the total number written by Voltaire in his lifetime, probably in excess of 40,000. Read more…

Alphabetical works

The eighteenth century was, amongst many other things, the age of the dictionary. In the spirit of the period, Voltaire contributed to collective projects such as Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, but also produced his own collections of alphabetically arranged articles. Read more…

Marginalia and notebooks

The markings – marginal notes, underlinings, bookmarks, turned down corners – on the books in Voltaire’s vast library bear witness to his thinking, reading and working methods. The same goes for his notebooks, in which he jotted down lines of poetry, anecdotes he heard, or excerpts of books he read. Read more…

Life writing

In addition to his vast body of correspondence, Voltaire penned three lengthy works with important autobiographical elements (though none is anything so simple as an autobiography). Read more…

Contes

Today, Candide is Voltaire’s best-known work, and it is one of many such ‘philosophical tales’ that he penned. Read more…

Read Voltaire

A reliable, searchable version of his works is available on-line on TOUT VOLTAIRE.

To find the best printed edition of each of his works: How to quote Voltaire.

Information about where to find translations of Voltaire’s works.

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