University Archives

Lot 260

Previous image preload Next image preload


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


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.


Accepts online payments

Accepted Forms of Payment

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Paypal, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We do our own in-house worldwide shipping!

Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

Upon winning your item(s), you will receive an invoice with our in-house shipping and handling fees included. ***We will ship to the address as it appears on your invoice, unless you inform us otherwise, immediately upon your receipt of invoice***

International shipments: In order to comply with our insurance provider, all international shipments will be sent via Fed Ex and customs paperwork will show a value of $1.00. International buyers should contact our office directly with any questions regarding this policy.

Third Party Shipping Option: If a third party shipper is preferred, the buyer is responsible for contacting them directly to make shipping arrangements. For your convenience, we have provided some recommended shippers. For your protection, we will require a signed release from you, confirming your authorization for us to release your lots to your specified third party Please copy and paste this following link into your browser: http://universityarchives.com/UserFiles/ShippingInfo.pdf. At that point, our responsibility and insurance coverage for your item(s) ceases. Items picked up by third party shippers are required to pay Connecticut sales tax. Items requiring third party shipping due to being oversized, fragile or bulky will be denoted in the item description.

Please see our full terms and conditions for names of suggested third party shippers.

After payment has been made in full, University Archives will ship your purchase within 5 business days following receipt of full payment for item.

Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Westport, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

June 24, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Wilton, CT, US

You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25.0% and any applicable taxes and shipping.

View full terms and conditions

Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000