For the CLIR Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant project, the Newberry Library is cataloging four French pamphlet collections, which are primary sources that support numerous fields of literary and historical study, including legal, social and cultural history, and the history of printing and publication.
The material is of particular interest to scholars of the French Revolution, but the value of the pamphlets is not limited to scholars of French or European history. The collections also enrich the study of colonial history in North America and the Caribbean and of the impact of the French Revolution in the United States and elsewhere, regarding the concept of “revolution” and attitudes about “radicals,” “conservatives,” the “bourgeoisie,” and shed light on debates about the meaning of citizenship.
French Revolution Collection (FRC): The FRC consists of more than 30,000 pamphlets and 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810. The collection was acquired by the Newberry between 1957 and 1961 from Michel Bernstein, a book dealer in Paris. The periodicals and 12,000 anonymously authored pamphlets were cataloged in the 1980s but an estimated 18,000 pamphlets with known authors (including those written under psudonyms) will be cataloged through the CLIR project.
The collection represents the opinions of all the factions that opposed and defended the monarchy during the turbulent period between 1789-1799 and also contains innumerable ephemeral publications of the early Republic. While the majority of the pamphlets were printed in Paris, by the Imprimerie nationale there are also significant numbers of provincial publishers and fictitious imprints.
Saint-Sulpice Collection (also known as Recueil de pieces historiques): At the end of the eighteenth century, the religious order of Saint-Sulpice assembled and bound this collection of 2,600 biographical pamphlets. The pamphlets were collected to serve as educational models, especially for rhetorical writing. Funeral sermons, orations, commemorative verses, and discourses dating from the 16th century are included. While most of the pamphlets are in French, the collection also contains numerous Latin publications. First editions include short works by Budé, Pascal, and Molière.
Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials pertaining to bookselling and publishing, mainly in France: Parisian and rare provincial publishers are represented in this unique assemblage of information about French printing and publishing from 1700-1850. The collection consists of 700 pamphlets.
Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection: This is a collection of more than 600 pamphlets about the imprisonment, trial and execution of Louis XVI. The pamphlets were collected at the time of their publication and are laid in contemporary cartonnage case bindings, with boards covered in pink pastepaper.
The pamphlets contain evidence against the king, defense of the king, public opinion on both sides of the issue, and moral and political reflections on judging and executing a king. There are numerous opinions of Convention deputies (e.g., Marat, Saint-Just, Robespierre, Condorcet, Desmoulins, Fabre d’Eglantine); inventories and copies of the incriminating documents seized from a safe at the Tuileries Palace on Aug. 10, 1792, and from the papers of Arnaud de Laporte, intendant of government officers (“la liste civile”); documents relating to the trial itself, such as the formal accusation of the king, his defense by de Seze, and the roll call of votes on sentencing; and pro and contra opinions by various writers, including American Tom Paine and Englishman William Pitt.