Siècle de Louis XIV (IA-VI)
Series: Œuvres complètes de Voltaire
Volume Editors: Sous la direction de Diego Venturino
Series Collaborators: David Adams, Valérie Bajou, Nicholas Cronk, Linda Gil, James Hanrahan, François Moureau, Jean-Alexandre Perras, Laurent Portes, Samuel S. B. Taylor, Diego Venturino, Alain Viala
Publication Date: 2019
This fully annotated critical edition of the Siècle de Louis XIV (1751), Voltaire’s seminal account of the reign of the Sun King, is now complete and available. This text is the starting-point for any reflection on the political and cultural history of this era, and is a monument of eighteenth-century historiography, paving the way for both modern historiography and literary history.
The lasting success of this flagship work is due to the depth of Voltaire’s insight into the people and events that he is describing and to his historical method, which was remarkable for its day. The emphasis on first-hand accounts from those who witnessed events and on the perspective of the age as a whole rather than a parade of facts bears the stamp of Voltaire.
This first-ever critical edition is a co-publication between the Voltaire Foundation and the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, and is published in seven volumes of the Complete Works of Voltaire (vol.11A-13D). It takes as its base text the last version of the work that Voltaire authorised (1775), and gives variant readings from all preceding versions of the text. It includes the ‘Catalogue des écrivains français qui ont paru dans le siècle de Louis XIV’, an important and fascinating work in its own right. The edition is supplied with an index with full names and dates of all persons mentioned in the text.
Table of contents
IA and IB: Introduction, Textes annexes (vol.11A and 11B, 2019)
II: Listes et Catalogue des écrivains (vol.12, 2017)
III: ch.1-12 (vol.13A, 2015)
IV: ch.13-24 (vol.13B, 2015)
V: ch.25-30 (vol.13C, 2016)
VI: ch.31-39 (vol.13D, 2016)
The Siècle de Louis XIV is the foundational text of French literary history. This edition reveals the depth of erudition that lies behind each of Voltaire’s lines, and it highlights the central role of the Siècle in the emergence of modern historical thinking.
Ce magnifique travail savant devrait permettre au lecteur de prendre la mesure de la puissance critique de tout l’ouvrage qui, jusque dans ses pages les plus narratives, affronte la question de la preuve et du doute dans l’écriture de l’histoire.
L’annotation établie par D. Venturino est sobre et précise, présente mais pas pesante. Héritière de la tradition des études voltairiennes, elle ne vise pas à une réécriture en marge de l’histoire de Louis XIV. Elle vise à replacer le texte dans la connaissance qu’avaient les contemporains du Grand Siècle écoulé et dans les débats qu’il suscitait. Tout est donc ordonné à la restitution des sources utilisées et à l’intelligence de l’œuvre de Voltaire.
The Siècle de Louis XIV is a milestone on the road to modern history-writing. Voltaire, the chief publicist of the Enlightenment, wrote his history en philosophe, concerning himself with the human condition and with man’s progress (or the lack of it) towards personal freedom; a preoccupation which later generations of historians have largely inherited. The Voltaire Foundation’s new edition, based on the 1775 version but with annotations from earlier editions, provides an 18th-century portrait of the ‘Grand Siècle’ which was startlingly new and an insight into the new history which is surprisingly familiar. Such a scholarly re-publication of one of the seminal works of the Siècle des Lumières is greatly to be welcomed.
[This] critical edition has thus been much anticipated; it is now clear that the result more than justifies the wait. […]
[I]n each of these volumes, the editorial notes comprise roughly 50 percent of the total content; it was therefore decided to place them at the end of each volume. […] [T]he loss in ease of use is more than compensated by the richness of the annotation. […]
Venturino explains that he has sought to provide a window into Voltaire’s writing process […] This annotation is particularly valuable since one of the philosophe’s challenges in creating the Siècle de Louis XIV was to reduce an overwhelming amount of material to a mere two volumes in the original edition […] [T]he effect of this mass of annotation is not to “weigh down” the text; rather, as Venturino suggests, it actually “lightens” it by making it easier to understand precisely how Voltaire’s presence manifests itself in these pages. […]
In all cases, the superb work that has been done in this edition will pay rich rewards to those who make the small investment necessary to understand the organization of the ensemble.
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