DS0805 -

An Analytical and Material Inventory of Condorcet's Correspondence – CONDOR

Submission summary

Condorcet studies have developed markedly over the past two decades, following the bicentenaries of the French Revolution and of the death of Condorcet in 1794. This progress in research has brought to light previously unknown letters and unpublished essays, notably on such subjects as political arithmetic and the philosophy of history. However, the most frequently quoted primary source for “the last of the Encyclopedists”, or, in Voltaire’s words, “the Condor” of the Enlightenment, remains the nineteenth-century edition of his Œuvres (1847-1849), which is widely recognised as imprecise and incomplete. Condorcet’s correspondence is especially ill-treated. The Œuvres contain fewer than 200 letters, sometimes erroneously dated, while transcripts are often incomplete or incorrect. Our team’s investigations have brought to light over 2000 letters, kept in about 130 archives located in over fifteen countries, most of which are unpublished.
This correspondence constitutes a major source for the life and thought of Condorcet and, beyond, to understand the relationship between the scientific Enlightenment and the French Revolution. It is crucial to make these letters accessible to scholars. Before any critical scholarly edition can be envisaged, a precise inventory must be compiled. This is a complex task due to the number of correspondents, the frequent omission of dates and the scattering of letters in numerous archives throughout the world.
Project CONDOR puts together the means required to produce such an inventory while building on the preparatory work that has been conducted by an international and interdisciplinary team. This projected inventory of Condorcet’s correspondence is both analytical and material. First, it is analytical, as archivists use the term, in that it “presents under an organised, short and precise form the information contained in the documents” (Direction des Archives de France, 2002, p. 11). The inventory will contain a summary of each letter (which implies its previous transcription) and several indexes, thus providing a synoptic view of Condorcet’s epistolary network. Such a document will show the significance and the variety of this correspondence at a glance. The inventory will also include an analysis of material elements : for each letter a codicological description will be provided, analysing hands, post marks, wax seals and type of paper (watermark and other material evidence). Taking into account these new elements and studying them together with the contents of the letters will allow us to gather new clues for identifying and dating each item in the correspondence.
By publishing online our descriptive methodology, we will create a benchmark promoting the use of codicology for modern history, within the stimulating framework of the digital humanities. The accessible codicological descriptions and inventories compiled by the project will be useful to other scholars working in the field of eighteenth-century studies.
Project CONDOR creates the conditions for innovative erudition. It brings together researchers with a variety of technical skills alongside specialist knowledge of the life and work of Condorcet – including the latest developments in Condorcet scholarship.

Project coordination

Nicolas Rieucau (Laboratoire d'Economie Dionysien - Axe Histoire de la pensée et des faits économiques)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


BIF Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France
LED - Paris 8 Laboratoire d'Economie Dionysien - Axe Histoire de la pensée et des faits économiques
CMH Centre Maurice Halbwachs - Equipe Enquêtes, Terrains, Théories

Help of the ANR 298,735 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 36 Months

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