Frederick the Great's "The Works of the Philosopher of Sans Souci." Volumes I-III


The three-volume edition of selected works by Frederick II, King of Prussia, printed in 1749−50, was the first product of Frederick’s private printing press at the palace of Sanssouci. The king entitled the edition, the contents of which were entirely in French, Oeuvres du Philosophe de Sans Souci (The works of the philosopher of Sans Souci). (Sanssouci was the name of the summer palace that Frederick had built just outside Berlin in 1745−47.) Volume one contains the burlesque heroic epic Le Palladion, which was written as a carnival jest and was to remain an absolute secret because of its harsh satire directed at Frederick’s contemporaries and at the Christian religion. Only 24 copies were produced. The first printing of Le Palladion was completed in the summer of 1749, but it was so flawed that the king had a revised edition, which he himself edited, printed in January 1750, also in 24 copies. Of the 1749 edition only a single, now-lost, copy is known to have survived. The second and third volumes of the Oeuvres each were produced in 40 copies. Volume two contains eight odes and 16 poems known as épîtres (missives). Volume three contains another ten épîtres, 11 letters (mainly addressed to Voltaire), and three prose pieces. The private printing press of the king continued to produce extremely rare examples of 18th-century book arts up to 1752. These works, designed in a way that was true to style of the "philosopher of Sanssouci," created a suitable framework for Frederick’s poetic and literary-historiographical works.

Last updated: August 19, 2015