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5.0 out of 5 stars In defence of the editor and the translator, 17 Mar 2012
This review is from: A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Writing reviews is a hard business, writes H. Mason in reply to A. Lowry. The reviewer must convey the qualities of a good book and show up the errors of a bad one. A. Lowry, says H. Mason, does neither. Not a word about the positive reviews in the Guardian and in the Times Literary Supplement. Just a single complaint: that Fletcher and Cronk have limited themselves to Voltaire's first edition of 1764 and thereby failed to provide the complete text of the Philosophical Dictionary. Besterman's version, A. Lowry says, is more inclusive and so, A. Lowry imples, is preferable.

But that is to misunderstand what Fletcher and Cronk are doing. As they make clear, the first edition was the book that "caused all the fuss". That was because it launched Voltaire's war on what he called "l'infame", the doctrines and practices of the Christian church of his time. The book had to be published anonymously because Voltaire knew that it would put the cat among the pigeons. He was right: it was banned in Catholic Paris, publicly burned in Calvinist Geneva, and immediately placed on the Vatican's index of forbidden books.

That first edition has a striking integrity. In later editions Voltaire would add more articles, as Cronk makes clear (p. xxiv). But it was the first edition which packed the punch and, to this day, still does. This new translation is a book all students of the Enlightement will value, H. Mason concludes.
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