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Is there any valid source for the claim that Voltaire' house has been used by the Bible Society? I heard this many times, but I've never read a valid source for it.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Apparently it is not true:

There is an apocryphal story that his home at Ferney was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and used for printing Bibles, but this appears to be due to a misunderstanding of the 1849 annual report of the American Bible Society. Voltaire's chateau is now owned and administered by the French Ministry of Culture.

Source: Wikipedia

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Dang, I thought it would be a day without wholly wikipedia sourced answers. Oh well +1, fearless and inventive. –  Peter Turner Jan 18 '12 at 15:04
    
@PeterTurner: I did it from memory. :) –  Wikis Jan 18 '12 at 15:28
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I've read that voltaire owne two houses. One in Geneva, one in France. The one in Geneva would be the one used by the Geneva Bible Society. –  David Laberge Jan 19 '12 at 12:45
    
Some of the details may not be true, but there appears to a be a kernel of truth from which the story grew that you have not uncovered. –  bruised reed Dec 18 at 17:45
    
-1 That snippet of text is no longer in that Wikipedia article. CTRL+F it and see. –  LCIII Dec 18 at 18:08

While the exact details may not match the most popular versions of this story - the house being used (ie on an on-going basis) by an actual Bible Society - there is evidence of a kernel of truth from which this story came.

This evidence is found in the wikipedia article on Voltaire's* home in Geneva from 1755 - 1760 "Les Délices" (See in particular the paragraph:"After Voltaire"), which cites an article in reference to the question, by Rev. W. Acworth (1836) from "The Missionary Register." (mouseover reference 6 - which contains a clickable link to the full article in GoogleBooks.)

The article verifies some of the details used to the 'refute' the original story (that this home was never used or owned by a Bible Society per se and is currently being used as a museum dedicated to Voltaire's life and works). This source asserts that the home WAS owned by the President of the Evangelical society of Geneva and used during this period as a repository for Bibles:

I went through Geneva, and was much refreshed by meeting the Committee of the Evangelical Society ... The room where Voltaire's plays were acted ... had been converted into a sort of Repository for Bibles and Religious Tracts. - Rev. W. Acworth (1836). "Bible Notices in Switzerland and Italy". The Missionary Register (London: L & G Seeley) 24: 352

*a nom-de-plume; real name: François-Marie Arouet

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You've found a good source - great! You're yet to write a good answer with it however - less about your search and more about what the actual supporting evidence is (as well as exactly what it supports). –  bruised reed Dec 18 at 17:38
    
bruised reed TKU! Will do... –  Beagleburt Dec 18 at 17:46
    
To be honest, I think there was still a little lacking in your answer after you'd tried editing it. I've taken the liberty of editing to include the relevant evidence (as in actually quoting it rather than just linking to it) and it's actual implications. If you think this editing is too extreme and you'd like to roll-back to your previous version (to either re-work or leave as it is) you can access a "Roll-back" option by clicking on the edit history to return it to it's previous version. –  bruised reed Dec 19 at 5:14

I don't think we can determine the truth about one of Voltaire's houses being used to print Bibles, only what sort of website considers it a fact. Here is a reference that quotes wiki and explains that there was a second house -- actually in Geneva. Feel free to believe or disbelieve this version, as you prefer, since this site doesn't have any references.

The Voltaire home that the 'Geneva Bible Society' purchased

was the house in 'Geneva, Switzerland;

NOT the one in Ferney, France.

In Geneva, he bought a large estate (Les Délices) and this is the one used to distribute Bibles.

It is not known if the Wikipedia statement is to "to deceive intentionally" or by ignorance. We would have to think they know the difference between the Homes in France and Switzerland.

FACT: The French Ministry of Culture operates the house in France!

FACT: The Geneva Bible Society operates the house in Geneva.

Update:

The following article, by a non-believer, is mentioned at the link above:

http://www.nzarh.org.nz/journal/2004v77n1aut.pdf (see toc for article about Voltaire's house)

This appears to be somewhat carefully researched, although I didn't check his references. If it is correct, none of Voltaire's houses were used by Bible societies. The article suggests the story may have originated due to a hotel Gibbon, from which many Bibles were sold, being mentioned in a book in the same sentence as Voltaire.

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The same report that lists two houses says that Voltaire was driven out of Geneva by the Christian reformer Jean Calvin. That would be quite a trick since Calvin died decades before Voltaire was born. It does not aide the Truth to pass on false stories to make a true point. –  Ken Aug 16 at 20:32
    
@ken, thanks for the comment. The error you mentioned was within brackets and a quoted section, anyway, but I did look at the pdf file listed next to it. From that, I conclude the main point was probably NOT true. –  disciple Aug 16 at 22:43

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