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Jacques Mallet du Pan, Voltaire's friend, ALS to Swiss editor of Voltaire's works

1p ALS inscribed overall in French and signed by Voltaire friend and French writer Jacques Mallet du Pan (1749-1800) as "Mallet du Pan" in the bottom right corner of first page. Remaining bifold pages are blank with the exception of integral address leaf. In very good to near fine condition. Isolated minor darkening to edges. Small area of loss corresponding to red wax seal remnants. Docket information found on last page. Each page measures 7.375" x 8.875".

A full English translation is provided. On October 21, 1783, Mallet du Pan wrote an encouraging letter to an aspiring Voltaire editor named Jean-Jacques Thourneysen of Basel, Switzerland. Thourneysen had sent him a prospectus about his upcoming edition of Voltaire's works.

Please see below for a complete translation:

"Geneva, 21 October 1783

Sir

Mr. Chirol informed me about your Voltaire prospectus. I strongly encouraged him to give you preference. This edition does infinite honor to the Swiss press, and I am delighted that it has aborted the villainy of those from Lausanne. If I - as an author of historical and political studies - can be of use to you, I will accept the task with pleasure. My second year having expired, I shall not begin my courses for a month, and I shall deem your enterprise worthy of every encouragement. The interest I take in it leads me to give you a piece of advice. M. Vagnieres, the former secretary to Voltaire who is living at Ferney, possessed several little pieces by this great man which I have seen, and a majority of which are certainly not included in M. de Beaumarchais' edition. Vagnieres has been in contact with him; I don’t know if they reached an agreement, since I haven't seen the secretary in five months. But you wouldn't go amiss in sending him your prospectus and in including your proposals. You may even use my name, and if he talks to me about it, I will exhort him to come to an agreement with you. All the shortcomings of these pieces will add to your Edition. It is probably this submission that those from Lausanne have in mind, but what they don't have, they will not have. M. Gabriel Cramer also has valuable pieces. If you are in communication with him, you would be able to stop him.

I am, with perfect consideration, Sir, your very humble and very obedient servant

Mallet du Pan the elder, former Professor of Literature.

P.S. If you want to send me 50 copies of your prospectus, I will forward them to my correspondents".

This letter illustrates the intensity of competition over Voltaire's legacy in the Swiss literary world. The letter mentions two editors of Voltaire's works: Gabriel Cramer (1723-1793) and Pierre Beaumarchais (1732-1799). Cramer published Voltaire's works during the philosopher's lifetime out of his home base in Geneva. Beaumarchais, best known for plays like The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville, published Voltaire's complete works in 70 volumes well after the writer's death, between 1783-1790. Switzerland has long valued literacy and literature. This was one of the reasons why Voltaire settled in Ferney, on the French side of the Franco-Swiss border, after he was banned from Paris in 1754. Apparently Voltaire's Swiss neighbors were eager to appropriate his legacy. Editors from different regions of Switzerland competed amongst each other for the title of ultimate authority. Whether it was Cramer in Geneva, Thourneysen in Basel, or sinister publishers operating out of Lausanne, everyone wanted a share of Voltaire's legacy. Jacques Mallet du Pan was a friend and protegee of the leading French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778). Voltaire was a prolific writer and social critic who weighed in on political, cultural, and religious issues of the day. His controversial works were often banned, and this probably contributed to the frenzy to publish his works after his death.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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