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The library of Les Délices is a noncirculating library that provides researchers access to over 22,000 volumes, including 2500 editions of Voltaire’s writings, in the original French and in translation. Readers can consult works by the great man in 24 other languages, including Hungarian, Catalan, Bulgarian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Czech. Among recent acquisitions there is the Chinese translation of the "Philosophical letters," "Candide," "Essay on the manners and spirit of nations," the "Philosophical dictionary," and naturally "The Orphan of China." A special effort is being made at this time for adaptations, imitations, or parodies of Voltaire’s works, in a word what we might call the Voltairian “legacy.”

Houdon, "Voltaire assis", bronze, début 19e siècle, IMV IC 044

A documentation center devoted to the 18th century

Nevertheless, Voltaire is not the only author at Les Délices who has good reason to be there. The library indeed strives to be a tool for anyone interested in the 18th century, be it history, the history of ideas, or literature. A significant number of specialized periodicals that are devoted to that age and hard to find elsewhere are available to the public.

The Musée Voltaire, moreover, has a large store of manuscripts that are not limited to Voltaire alone, although documents in his hand do constitute the most important group in terms of numbers. These manuscripts evidence the fertile intellectual output of all those who made the Enlightenment what it was.

Thus patrons can explore, for example, the Beaumarchais or the Suard archives, as well as Saint-Lambert’s highly interesting correspondence with Henri Agasse de Cresne.

The manuscripts

The Musée Voltaire is pleased to offer its patrons the now digitized catalogue of its manuscript collections. More than 50% of our collections can now be found on Manuscrits et archives Voltaire.

The collection of manuscripts for the most part took shape thanks to the important donation that Theodore Besterman made to the City of Geneva in 1954. This Polish-born British billionaire, a fervent reader and admirer of Voltaire, was the man behind the founding of the institute’s library and museum, which he enriched with thousands of books, manuscripts, and visual materials. The director of the Institut et Musée Voltaire from 1954 to 1970, Besterman was succeeded by Charles-Ferdinand Wirz, who retired in 2002. Thanks to this great connoisseur of Voltaire, the manuscript collections have been enriched, made accessible to researchers, and painstakingly studied.

They form two large groups of texts that are easily identifiable, in that the first comprises all the isolated manuscripts, which have been physically collected in specialized binders, while the second, under the sole identifying tag MS, covers the collections (whether put together by another after the author’s death or no) that had already been assembled and bound beforehand.

The call numbers of the former group vary greatly. The C series, for instance, designates all the pieces of correspondence and is broken down into five distinct categories: CA for Voltaire’s active correspondence; CB for his passive correspondence; CC for other 18th-century correspondences; CD for the letters that had formerly entered the Bestermanian corpus of the Correspondance définitive originally published by Les Délices, and later the Voltaire Foundation of Oxford; and finally CE for all other forms of correspondence.

The current database offers about 50% of our collection and is regularly enlarged as the remaining pieces are catalogued. Pieces coming into the collection are also processed in a way that allows them to be quickly put on line. For further questions, please contact Flavio Borda d’Água, assistant specialist.

Rue des Délices 25
1203 Genève

T: +41 22 418 95 60
F: +41 22 418 95 61

Library and Museum

Monday to Friday: 2pm to 5pm
Open the first Saturday of every month from 2 pm to 5 pm
The library is open to the public weekday mornings, by appointment.

Flávio Borda d’Água
Conservateur adjoint
T: +41 22 418 95 65

Library and Museum

Monday to Friday: 2pm to 5pm
Open the first Saturday of every month from 2 pm to 5 pm
The library is open to the public weekday mornings, by appointment.