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Lettres d'Elie Luzac a Jean Henry Samuel Formey (1748-1770): regard sur les coulisses de la librarie hollandaise du 18th siecle.

Lettres d'Elie Luzac a Jean Henry Samuel Formey (1748-1770): regard sur les coulisses de la librairie hollandaise du XVIIIe siecle. By HANS BOTS and JAN SCHILLINGS. (Vie des Huguenots, ed. by Antony McKenna, 15) Paris: Champion. 2001. 416 pp. 400 F. ISBN 2-7453-0386-4.

The 213 letters from the Dutch bookseller Elie Luzac to Formey form part of the vast correspondence maintained by the latter in his role as permanent secretary of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin and as the co-editor of important periodicals such as the Bibliotheque germanique. Having been praised by Luzac, Formey first contacted him in order to set up a new periodical, the Bibliotheque impartiale, a work which was quickly at the centre of controversy due to its praise of one of Voltaire's pet hates, the poet Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, an action which led another prominent journalist, living in exile in Holland and similarly critical of Voltaire, Jean Rousset de Missy, to accuse Formey of being a pedant (see Christiane Berkvens-Stevenlink and Jeroom Vercruysse, Le Metier de journaliste au dix-huiteme siecle (Oxford:Voltaire Foundation, 1993), p. 133). Both Luzac and Formey, in their fidelity to strict reasoning and erudition, are representative of those who were wary of the all-triumphant French version of the Enlightenment and who accused Voltaire and his ilk of superficiality and of sacrificing solid reason to showy style. Luzac, himself the author of a refutation of the materialism of La Mettrie, was not just a bookseller, but a highly educated man, and we frequently see him here arguing subtly with Formey at an intellectual level, over both language and content in the latter's work. The present correspondence thus shows in some detail the background to the publication of Formey's work as well as illustrating in more general terms the methods of the Dutch book trade towards the end of its years of glory.

The manuscripts of most of the letters published here are kept in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, with a minority found in other libraries in Germany and Poland. The text has been carefully and competently prepared and is very richly annotated. This is an excellent scholarly presentation of a correspondence that helps to further our understanding of the Enlightenment in its European dimension.


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Author:Todd, Christopher
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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