Very few people know that the library of Voltaire, a philosopher, historian, the most famous French writer of the 18th century, is housed in Russia.
Catherine II decided to purchase Voltaire's library immediately after his death. The library was sold by Marie-Louise Denis, Voltaire’s niece and heir. In 1778, the Voltaire Library became part of the private royal library founded by Catherine II, known as the Hermitage collection. In 1852, it was transferred from the Hermitage Palace to the Imperial Public Library, now the National Library of Russia.
The Voltaire Library covers almost ten languages and contains 6,814 volumes on diverse subjects. More than a third of the printed books contain notes in the hand of their former owner. The collection may without exaggeration be described as a treasure of global significance, held in the National Library of Russia.
The Voltaire Library is the only well preserved library of a French author of the Enlightenment (in France, no such libraries exist today). Additionally, the library is valuable for the notes made by the philosopher himself in the margins of the books. As it happens, these notes are not always written in the margins, but sometimes on labels, on the spine of the books, title pages, endpapers, half titles, bookmarks, etc. Some books feature other traces of reading.
In these notes, the philosopher expressed his ideas freely, and you can almost follow his train of thought. For many years, researchers have been working to transcribe Voltaire’s marginalia. Today, the notes have been published as part of his Complete Works (Oxford). Visitors will be given an opportunity to read some of the most interesting of Voltaire's remarks.
A guide will also tell you about the most significant books and manuscripts. The visitors will see manuscripts by Voltaire and his correspondents: his companion and famous woman physicist, marchioness Émilie Du Châtelet, Frederick II, king of Prussia, and others.
During the tour, you will learn about Catherine II's unrealized projects for building a replica of Voltaire’s manor house near her Summer Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. You will be able to see samples of walls upholstery and plans and drawings of the manor house made in the 18th century.
Tours take place from Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 16:00, except on national holidays and the last Tuesday of the month. They are conducted in Russian and French. For tours in other languages, we work through an interpreter.
The tours are available for groups of up to 15 people per guide.
The tours will take about an hour and start from the Entrance for Groups under the sign DIRECTORIAL BOARD - ДИРЕКЦИЯ from Sadovaya Street.
Please note! Admission to the Voltaire Library is only possible with a library card. To get a library card, please enter the Main Building through the Reader Entrance off Ostrovsky Square.
Coats and bags (including backpacks) must be left in the cloakroom.
Advance booking is recommended. To book a tour, please write to us with the date, time and number of people. You can book the guided tour of Voltaire's Library by e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org:
Using the Reading Rooms
Cloakrooms, Storage, Wi-Fi
The Library is open
Monday—Friday from 9:00 to 21:00;
Saturday, Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00.
The Library is closed on public holidays and last Tuesday of each month.
On pre-holidays, the Library is open from 9:00 to 16:00.