Voltaire’s ‘Pots-pourris’: A catalogue of the 201 self-made collections that Voltaire kept in his private library

Voltaire’s ‘Pots-pourris’ is a catalogue created by Joana Roqué Pesquer as part of The Voltaire Library database. It contains the entries for 1,733 works that are part of the 201 self-made collections (or ‘pots-pourris’, or ‘recueils factices’) that Voltaire kept in his private library. At first glance these collections seem to have been created for conservation reasons since they contained pamphlets and manuscripts that would be more well preserved in bound form. Nevertheless, evidence of the coherence in the themes and authors within each collection reveal it was most certainly not a purely functional practice. Furthermore, the diversity of topics presented in each collection is representative of Voltaire’s need to keep tabs on various political, judicial, theological, philosophical and literary debates happening at the time, or that had happened in the past, in order to fuel his thirst for knowledge. His own writings address or develop the issues collected in many of the ‘pots-pourris’, while at the same time the compiling itself can be analysed as a creative process through which he generated new connections amongst and beyond the works being brought together within the same binding. Hence, the purpose of this catalogue is to help users understand Voltaire’s ‘pots-pourris’ as literary creations rather than random compilations, in order to shed light on his editorial and textual practices in ways that have not yet been explored.

This first version of a digital catalogue will be hosted by the Sustainable Digital Scholarship platform, before it is absorbed by the Voltaire Library database (late 2023) and be part of a much more interactive resource. Ultimately, besides digitally cataloguing and visualising these bespoke collections, columns such as ‘Classification’, ‘Notes’ or ‘Related articles’ will enrich current bibliographical information by providing key data about the ‘pots-pourris’ that has been gathered after thorough research on all volumes. The goal is to create a unique catalogue that will make possible cross-searching, statistical analysis and new scholarship on Voltaire and the vibrant 18th-century culture he engaged with.

Search the catalogue here. See two sample visualisations: on authors and on subject classifications.

Main source used:

Библиотека Вольтера: каталог книг [Voltaire’s Library: catalogue of books], ed. M. P. Alekseev and T. N. Kopreeva (Moscow, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1961)

Voltaire Foundation

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