Voltaire’s Correspondence Network
Dan Edelstein and Biliana Kassabova
The work presented here is part of the original “Mapping the Republic of Letters” project, which started in 2008. The goal of that project was to use data visualizations to get a better sense of the overall shape and structure of early-modern networks, correspondence networks in particular. In the case of Voltaire, our own work was made possible by the Electronic Enlightenment Project, which had digitized and organized Voltaire’s complete correspondence. The director of this project, Robert McNamee, generously shared the metadata for Voltaire (and other writers), which provided our core data set. We have enriched and re-structured the data a fair deal, but would not have gotten off the ground without this original data dump.
Our very first cartographic visualization gave us encouragement that this approach held great promise. Thanks to two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we refined and revised our data visualization techniques; the result of this process was Palladio, a suite of data visualization tools that anyone can use. On this page, you will find links to Palladio elements (“bricks”) populated with data from Voltaire’s correspondence.
We used the Voltaire visualization to conduct a study on Voltaire’s ties to England; our findings can be read in the article linked to below, “Where are Voltaire’s Letters to the English Nation?” But we are making the data visualizations (as well as the data) available to other scholars so they can explore and analyze the data according to their own interests.