Bernardin de Saint-Pierre project

3. Research context

The correspondence will allow a major reassessment of the significance of Bernardin during his lifetime. We shall be giving an intimate picture of an author struggling to survive as he composed his first works, using the considerable experience he had gained from his foreign travels. Of major interest is the correspondence between Bernardin and his publishers as he seeks to define the quality and price of his productions, enters into detailed negotiations about the typeface and the illustrations and attempts to find subscribers who will allow the texts to appear. In the final section, the period of Revolution, we have a detailed account of an intellectual in the Revolution who comes to terms with a new regime and seeks to define a place for himself in a different cultural universe. Through the correspondence we see Bernardin communicating with his contemporaries: with other intellectuals, publishers, politicians, scientists and the many women who wrote letters of admiration to him. And we see the intimate letters exchanged with the two women who were to become his wives. In short, the correspondence will bring into the public domain pictures of a world that remains relatively unknown. Our knowledge of the late Enlightenment and the Revolution will be enhanced by the detailed accounts that we are given by Bernardin and his correspondents. This is an exceptional, multi-dimensional case study which will provide readers with a window on the major events of the time.

The electronic publication of this corpus of letters within Electronic Enlightenment means that it will be possible to cross-search not only within the letters of Bernardin but also within the correspondence of many of his contemporaries. Beyond the intrinsic importance of Bernardin's own letters, Electronic Enlightenment will reveal the complexity of its links with contemporary culture.

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