[Voltaire]Commentaire historique sur les oeuvres de l'auteur de La Henriade, &c. Avec les pièces originales & les preuves.
A Basle, chez les Héritiers de Paul Duker, 1776.
8vo, later period-style binding, quarter blue sheepskin over marbled boards, smooth spine finely gilt in six compartments, havana morocco lettering piece, sprinkled edges. IVpp. (including the title with engraved vignette), 282pp. Complete.
First Edition published and distributed anonymously by Voltaire (1694-1778), being some sort of tribute to himself for the generations to come. It has sometimes wrongly been attributed to Jean-Louis Wagnière or Duray de Morsan.
The work, with its dossier of Lettres véritables and the allegorical poem Sésostris serving as a kind of postscript, is considered Voltaire’s final masterpiece.
“How did Voltaire want to be remembered? The Commentaire historique sees him creating a dossier of historical documentation to memorialise his life. The third-person narrator of Part 1 claims to have just found these letters from Voltaire’s correspondence and proceeds to give a preamble about the philosophe’s life before presenting the letters for posterity. It is as if Voltaire were imagining a historian from long after he has been forgotten, rediscovering this dossier and learning about his remarkable achievements for the first time” (Voltaire Foundation).