Voltaire correspondence Edit


Finding Aid Author
Lisa Ebiner Gavit
Finding Aid Date
2014 May
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


  • 1741 – 1777 (Creation)


  • 0.21 Linear Feet (Whole)
    1 box

Agent Links



  • Abstract

    A collection of correspondence to and from Voltaire, as well as three pages of poetry written by Voltaire. Many letters in the collection are either to or from Frederick the Great, who was the King of Prussia from 1740-1786. The correspondence between Voltaire and Frederick, as well as all the other correspondence in the collection covers such topics as freedom of expression in 18th Century France and wars which were going on in Europe at the time. Voltaire was sick and apparently bed-ridden while he wrote some of the later letters. Voltaire incorporated some poetry directly into his letters, but in this collection there are also three pages of poetry dedicated to various people.

  • Scope and Content

    There are 32 items in this collection, the majority of which are correspondence between Frederick the Great of Prussia and Voltaire. In the letters between Frederick and Voltaire, they discuss such topics as religious freedom and freedom of expression in France, the Catholic Church, the Seven Years War, the War of Austrian Succession, the health of Voltaire, and the talent and skill of both men in writing poetry. There are also some other letters from Voltaire to various friends including the Derrey de Rocqueville, who was a lawyer in the Parliament of Toulouse. These letters again discuss religious matters, certain legal cases where a French citizen was unjustly prosecuted for being of the wrong faith, and the health of Voltaire. Three pages of poems are also included in this collection, all written by Voltaire, and which include flowery language, many metaphors, and references to mythological characters and gods. Several of the letters are signed by Voltaire. All of Frederick the Great's letters are signed by him.

  • Biographical note

    Voltaire, who wrote and received the letters in this collection, was born in 1694 and died in 1778. Voltaire was a pen name; his full name was Francois Marie Arouet. Voltaire is known for his defense of the separation of church and state, and his advocacy for freedom of religion and expression, topics which are all discussed in the correspondence within this collection. Many of the letters in this collection were between Voltaire and Frederick the Great, who both seemed to admire each other immensely. Frederick the Great was King of Prussia during the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, and he wrote several letters to Voltaire describing aspects of the wars. Several of the letters also mention and discuss a couple of cases of Protestants in France who were being unjustly punished solely because of their faith. The cases mentioned include Jean Calas and Pierre-Paul Sirven, both of whom were eventually exonerated thanks to Voltaire's efforts. Calas was executed, however, before he was exonerated.

  • Acquisition

    Purchased; transferred from the Hoose Library of Philosophy.

  • Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], Voltaire correspondence, Collection no. 6006, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

  • Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    Advance notice required for access.