Important acquisitions

[Volume containing 5 works by Voltaire formerly in the library of David Hume]

Author Voltaire
Title [Volume containing 5 works by Voltaire formerly in the library of David Hume]
Imprint Amsterdam etc.: s.n.
Date of Publication 1766-69
Language French
Notes This volume contains five works by the French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) (1694-1778) printed between 1766 and 1769. The volume was formerly in the library of the eminent Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). It contains Hume's armorial bookplate (in the correct 'A' state) on the front pastedown, and a list of contents on the front free endpaper in his handwriting. The five works of Voltaire are: "La guerre civile de Geneve", "Le philosophe ignorant", "Le diner du Comte de Boulainvilliers", "Lettres a son altesse monseigneur le prince de ****" and "La defense de mon oncle". There are four minor annotations in the volume but none of these can be attributed with any certainty to Hume. The presence of works by the Frenchman in Hume's library is hardly surprising. Both men were key figures of the Enlightenment in Europe, whose works were hugely influential. Although Voltaire entertained the likes of James Boswell, Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon in his home in Ferney near the Swiss Border, he never met Hume. During Hume's stay in Paris between 1763 and 1765 plans were made by Voltaire's friends for him to visit the 'patriarch of Ferney'. Hume, however, chose not to go, explaining that his work as personal secretary to the British ambassador prevented him from leaving the French capital for any lengthy periods of time. His reluctance to travel to Ferney is probably accounted for by the fact that he did not really rate Voltaire as a philosopher and historian. Whereas Voltaire publicly expressed his admiration of Hume, the Scot was not willing to reciprocate. While in Paris Hume even tried, in vain, to suppress an article by Voltaire ridiculing fellow-Scot Lord Kames's "Elements of Criticism". No precise listing of Hume's book collection exists; however, some idea of its contents can be ascertained from a catalogue produced by the Edinburgh bookseller Thomas Stevenson in 1840. Most of the philosopher's books had ended up with his nephew, David, Baron Hume, and, after Baron Hume's death in 1838, his library was catalogued by Stevenson. There are over 200 French-language works in the Stevenson catalogue, including works by Voltaire. Number 937 on Stevenson's list refers to a collection of miscellaneous pamphlets on various subjects. Stevenson noted that "several of the pamphlets in his collection have got manuscript notes in the handwriting of David Hume, and others. For the contents, vide the flyleaves prefixed to each volume". It is very likely that this particular volume belongs to this collection of pamphlets. Stevenson went on to sell Baron Hume's books in the 1850s and the collection was thus dispersed. The acquisition of this volume is a welcome addition to our knowledge of Hume as book collector.
Shelfmark RB.s.2874(1)
Reference Sources E.C.Mossner, "The life of David Hume", Oxford, 1970; David Fate Norton & Mary J. Norton, "The David Hume Library" (Edinburgh, 1996)
Acquired on 30/08/13
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