With the imminent completion of its hitherto core project, the Complete works of Voltaire, the Voltaire Foundation is at a key turning-point in its development. From 2021, Digital Voltaire will become our flagship project. The Voltaire Foundation will take forward its expertise in state-of-the-art scholarly editing into the digital realm. Digital Voltaire will be ‘definitive’ in the newly emerging digital world in the same way that the Complete works of Voltaire are currently regarded as definitive in the world of the printed scholarly edition.
Digital Voltaire will be an iconic Digital Humanities project; building on the experience and intellectual heritage of previous digital projects but leveraging the very latest digital software developments to create an authoritative and highly flexible resource. We plan to model the files of the 203 volumes so as to enable access to and understanding of the writings of Voltaire on a scale, and in ways, hitherto undreamed of. In addition, we will develop the Voltaire Studio, a database of supplementary and supporting material (including a time line, a biography of Voltaire, a catalogue of his library, a catalogue of his manuscripts and images of manuscripts). By showcasing the very latest Digital Humanities methods and approaches, we will ensure that Digital Voltaire will be a cutting edge and exemplary resource, capable of redefining Enlightenment scholarship, and a model for other humanities digital resources.
The work that needs to be done is twofold:
(1) Modelling the scholarly digital edition. In order to explore the possibilities of a definitive scholarly digital edition, we will prototype Voltaire’s texts based on the Complete Works of Voltaire. Digital Voltaire is an archival edition, in contrast to Digital d’Holbach, which is also part of the larger Digital Enlightenment project, but a born-digital edition.
(2) To plan in detail the creation and development of a new digital resource and editing platform in the second phase of Digital Voltaire. This new resource will build upon, expand, and connect existing projects in Oxford that have hitherto remained disparate. As such, it will:
- include not only correspondences (as does Electronic Enlightenment at present), but also texts, so as to give its users a fuller experience of early-modern literary and scientific culture
- Explore dynamic links with other early modern digital projects in oxford, including Electronic Enlightenment, Cultures of Knowledge, Early Modern Letters Online and Women’s Early Modern Letters Online
- allow for the publication and exploration of born-digital material as well as archival editions
- provide an innovative infrastructure that will allow for the uploading and annotation of new materials, and therefore offer to its users a constantly growing research tool.
The VF’s research editors are working closely with the data consultant to ensure that the digital edition incorporates the VF’s internationally renowned, high scholarly standards as well as cutting edge DH methodology for research. We aim for Digital Voltaire to be a best-practice model of modern digital editing, and the digitisation of the remaining Complete works of Voltaire volumes is an essential step in the creation of this exemplary digital edition.