The Voltaire Library is a collaboration between Stanford University and the University of Oxford. The project explores Voltaire’s “working library,” one wholly different from a collector’s library because of his interactions with the texts: there is extant marginalia for over half of the 6500 volumes. Our mission is two-fold: (1) create a database of the library, and (2) use digital humanities tools to gain new insights into his intellectual sources. The database includes over 135 metadata categories to explore – from author to publication data -, and will include his digitised marginalia. By asking what shaped Voltaire’s corpus, we ask what shaped his library. Where did these books come from? Where were they published? Who sent them? And why are they in the library? I will discuss our study of the 1961 catalog produced by the Academy of Arts and Sciences in St. Petersburg, from OCRing the document, to applying metadata categories to each book, to creating a “subject-code” hierarchy. By combining 18th-century typologies with modern DH tools, we can explore the patterns – literary, social, political, and geographical – that shaped the library. The database will be enriched through linked data repositories, including Wikidata, Geonames,, Gallica, Google Books, and VIAF. We envision the data will help other scholars working on the Enlightenment book trade, such as information on publishers, pseudonyms, and specific editions. The Voltaire Library Project is an opportunity to develop linked data “gold standards,” not only for Enlightenment scholars, but for anyone working on libraries.

Student Contributor:

Lena Emelyn Zlock