A project is underway at the Voltaire Foundation to build the first online catalogue of manuscripts relating to Voltaire.
CMV (Catalogue of Manuscripts relating to Voltaire / Catalogue des Manuscrits relatifs à Voltaire) is a digital union catalogue that brings together international collections of Voltaire manuscripts, uniting records of these manuscripts in the same place for the first time. Begun in 2022 and generously supported by the Astra Foundation, the project will result in an open access, fully searchable resource that will significantly impact Voltaire scholarship by enabling new discoveries to be made, and fresh connections between sources to be drawn.
Developed by Dr Zoe Screti, Astra Foundation Research Fellow in Manuscript Studies, the catalogue will contain approximately 20,000 entries for manuscripts produced by, or relating to Voltaire. These include a wide variety of sources such as Voltaire’s wealthy correspondence, drafts and copies of Voltaire’s works, diary entries detailing meetings with Voltaire, commonplace books including quotes from Voltaire, and even a Jamaican almanac. Standardised typologies have been employed throughout to enhance searchability, maintain consistency, and enable users to filter results efficiently.
CMV pushes the boundaries of what a manuscript catalogue is, moving beyond traditional bibliographic entries to include information on often neglected, but nevertheless crucially important, aspects of archival materials such as marginalia, watermarks, and signs of use. In doing so, the catalogue seeks to support a variety of research needs, from ambitious ‘big data’ visualisations to the most microscopic studies of the materiality of the text. The catalogue also provides direct links to archival repositories and digital resources, and will link to Digital Voltaire at a later stage.
The catalogue website will also feature a host of resources of particular interest to teachers and students, such as videos demonstrating the processes of letter locking and guides to understanding eighteenth-century hands. CMV will therefore not only be a crucial starting point for researchers working on Voltaire and the eighteenth century, but also an informative introduction to Voltaire, the Enlightenment, and manuscript culture for those who are new to the field.
We would like to thank the donors who have made possible the building of this resource:
John Fell Fund, University of Oxford