Happy Birthday, Voltaire!
Voltaire the author and father of the French Enlightenment—we know about him, of course. But this influential philosopher also loved handmade work. Voltaire has a place in my heart, and I have devoted time as a librarian to cataloguing eighteenth-century books in The Martin J. Gross Collection of works by Voltaire and his contemporaries for the Library’s Rare Book Division.
And so, on this most special of days, I want to share with you the following excerpt, from Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, which illustrates his appreciation for the handmade: “Physical experiments, ably conducted, arts and handicraft—these are the true philosophy. My sage…is he who, with his shuttle, covers my walls with pictures of linen or of silk, brilliant with the finest colors; or he who puts into my pocket a chronometer of silver or of gold.” You’ll find this in the entry for Xenophanes (page 271, v. 7, in a 1901 edition of Voltaire’s collected works). Happy Birthday, Voltaire!