It was in 1755 that Voltaire settled in Geneva. Several reasons prompted the philosopher’s decision. First, he could not return to Paris; secondly, he had caught wind of the fabrique (factory) of the Cramer brothers, “booksellers” in Geneva; and finally, above all, the famous physician Théodore Tronchin lived in Geneva. It was thanks to the Tronchin family, moreover, that Voltaire was able to purchase the Saint-Jean property, which he immediately renamed his “delights” (Les Délices). He was to live there for five years and write the ending for the Orphan of China, as well as the Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, and Candide.
In October 1760, Voltaire settled in the château in Ferney he had acquired two years earlier. Resold in 1765, Les Délices would remain in the hands of the Tronchin family until 1840. In 1929, the mansion was bought up by the city.
After World War II the billionaire Theodore Besterman, a keen enthusiast of all things Voltaire, donated his collection of paintings, printed works, and manuscripts to the city. He was appointed the first keeper of what became on 2 October 1954 the Institut et Musée Voltaire.
An extensive restoration of the premises was undertaken in 1989. Three areas were cleared for the public, i.e., the library, which is open to Voltaire readers and researchers, and anyone curious to learn more about the famous man of letters; the ground floor, which displays the museum’s permanent collection; and finally the first floor, which is reserved for temporary exhibitions and research activities of the Bibliothèque de Genève that focus on the 18th century.