Category Archives: Research Tools

Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774 revisited

The cataloging workflow works in mysterious ways.

Earlier this year, when Benedict XVI’s resignation triggered a papal conclave, I took the opportunity to write a post about Gaetano Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774, two copies of which I had recently cataloged.  That very week, elsewhere in Collection Services, a manuscript of the libretto (Case MS V 461 .7743) landed on someone else’s desk.  The flurry of research by Alan and Jessica revealed nuances about the work’s history and publication that were necessary to distinguish its incarnations in our collection, which actually number five: the manuscript, an authentic edition, two counterfeit editions, and a French edition.

In the Bibliografia universale del teatro drammatico italiano, Salvioli and Salvioli attribute the work not to Sertor — who went to prison for its content — but to Prince Sigismondo Chigi.  They also go into detail about the distinguishing characteristics of the counterfeit editions.  The pictures below show our three Italian editions: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.  The French edition (F 46 .655 v. 23 no. 16), cataloged in January, is in our collection of Dutch pamphlets, also cataloged as part of the CLIR project.

Second counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); first counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); authentic edition: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b


In contemporary wrappers. Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.

Sauts des mariés and fêtes baladoires: customs arcane and illicit

With the French Revolution Collection (FRC) all but cataloged in full, our primary task now is to deal with the hundreds of duplicates set aside over the course of the three year CLIR project.  In the end it was decided that the integrity of the collection was worth preserving, so all duplicates will be retained.

For bibliographic records pre-dating the project, we’ll be recataloging, but CLIR records require merely adding holdings records in Voyager.  The latter is a simple matter, potentially tedious but quick enough to allow for a satisfyingly high level of productivity.   This alacrity makes it easy to simply skim the titles, but occasionally — as with the monkey and nun that (metaphorically) leaped from the pages of a Saint-Sulpice volume last year — a an unusual word or two demand attention.  For Case folio FRC 27535, my eye was caught by (literally) jumping newlyweds:

Ruling of the Cour de Parlement that prohibits all persons, of whatever quality and condition they may be, to require newlyweds, resident in the parish of Verruyes, to jump, on the day of Pentecost or any other day, over any hole; and that equally prohibits any newlyweds from presenting themselves to make the jump [...]

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

As the 1786 arrêt goes on to describe it, the hole is to be at least half full of water, of a depth of about 12 feet or more, and if the newlyweds fail to make the jump they must each pay a fine of 60 sols.   One can’t help but agree with the court  that the custom “can do nothing but result in very great impropriety … regarding both the danger incurred by jumping … and the fear that may precipitate paying  the fine.”

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

The ruling also notes that the saut des mariés can be considered nothing but a “fête baladoire” which are already outlawed.   One such decree (conveniently available online via the French national library’s Gallica bibliothèque numérique) sheds light on what fêtes baladoires might entail, describing in some detail the disruptive hijinks in a particular area.

Arrest de la cour du Parlement défend les fêtes baladoires, les attroupements et assemblées illicites ... (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The decree pertains to assemblies

that could be regarded as fêtes baladoires (licentious festivals), during marrages and baptisms; that the inhabitants tumultuously gather together armed with rifles and pistols, having rockets and firecrackers, and lighting fires in different places around the parishes; that around the days of carnival the boys of the parishes go out looking for girls in the places where they are assembled, with drums, fifes, and horns, traversing during the night all the quarters of their villages leading around masked and disguised girls, and going from village to village; that the inhabitants of Couilly assembled in a cabaret where they wrote and composed defamatory libels that they had distributed; that during carnival they had an inhabitant of Couilly mount an ass [...] carrying and representing his effigy, which they burned, extorting from this inhabitant the sum of 60 livres, and then they assembled in the cabarets where they made a tumult and drank all night [...]

The high spirits — particularly the libel and effigy-burning — sound much like the 1791 case of the carementran in Crest that cropped up almost exactly a year ago.  Somehow these crop up on our work flow just after Ash Wednesday.  Go figure.


A Stranger in a strange language

Cataloging in a language I know nothing about has been an interesting experience. In addition to having no formal training in Dutch, I came to this with no knowledge of Dutch history outside of their contributions to the field of horticulture (thanks to a graduate school class that took place at the Chicago Botanic Garden). From a purely quantitative perspective, that means that cataloging these Dutch pamphlets, as similar as they are content-wise to the French Revolution Collection, is significantly more time consuming.

C.G. Allen’s Manual of European languages for librarians has been an invaluable resource. Less because of the vocabulary featured therein, but for its explanation of how Dutch orthography has changed over the centuries. The Dutch language underwent a major spelling reform in the 19th century.  Since only the first few items cataloged post-date those reforms, looking up unknown words (i.e., most of them) in a modern dictionary would be nigh impossible without the background presented there.

Of course, things have improved – I have now cataloged 16 volumes of Dutch pamphlets, and no-longer have to look up every every word. Being a Germanic language, there are enough similarities for me to muddle through, and the wholesale borrowing of many words from Latin and French (sometimes even retaining their traditional Latin declensions, much to the consternation of second-language Dutch learners everywhere, I’m sure) makes figuring out the meaning behind things much easier for those of us with formal training in both French and Latin.

Sometimes, a pamphlet comes along where the title is so glaringly similar to English (if you squint) that your humble cataloger immediately becomes wary of false friends. In the case of today’s special pamphlet, that fear was unjustified, but a closer look was still necessary.

F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2 title page

The pamphlet in question is titled Groot A/B/C boek (Call no.  F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2). For those readers not fluent with Dutch, yes, the title literally translates to “Great ABC book”.  So far so good. Unfortunately, this pamphlet is not actually an alphabet book, as the name would imply. To the author’s credit, the alphabet is present. The first page of the pamphlet presents the alphabet in six different typefaces: upper and lower case fraktur-style typefaces, upper and lower case italic typefaces, and upper and lower case roman typefaces. The author then helpfully points out the five vowels and gives a brief explanation of each before giving up on this whole “alphabet book” conceit entirely. The final ten pages of this pamphlet are, of course, political satire.  Not only that, but they consist entirely of parodies of religious writings: the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and a “sermon” on Bentink LXII, 5  (a reference to Willem Bentinck, a diplomat in the court of the stadtholder William IV.

F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2 alphabet

F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2 - the alphabet

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working on so many 18th century pamphlets, it’s that no topic is to obscure to be turned into a political satire. Of course, it seems like the author of this one ran out of ideas on how to turn an alphabet book without any illustrations into a political satire pretty quickly, so went for the easy controversy by creating a religiously-themed satire, drawing parallels between supporters of the house of Orange-Nassau and the devoutly religious (and thus, implicitly criticizing the supporters who viewed the superiority of the stadtholders as obvious, gospel truth). The pamphlet even goes so far as to utilize the then-archaic blackletter typeface for the entire text.

F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2 Het Willem onze

F 46 .655 v. 36 no. 2 - Het Willem onze

This pamphlet wasn’t complete without false friends – the parody of the Lord’s Prayer is entitled “Het Willem onze”, which my francophone brain immediately interpreted as “William XI” as opposed to the true Dutch meaning “Our William”, a parody of the “Our Father” (Cf. the German cognate Vaterunser , both from the Latin Pater noster). This has been one of the recurring difficulties for me in working with Dutch – not the English cognates, which almost universally mean exactly what they first appear to mean, but the numerous French cognates with completely different meanings. The most distracting has been the Dutch en, meaning “and” (and thus the Latin abbreviation etc. is commonly changed to enz.), which I continuously misinterpret as the French preposition.

Cataloging these materials in Dutch has definitely been a learning experience – not only from a linguistic perspective, but a historical one too. It also throws into sharp relief the amount of information available on the French Revolution – finding similar information on contemporary events in the Netherlands has been far more difficult, and the vast majority of sources are in Dutch as well.

For fans of unusual satire, this collection of Dutch pamphlets is really strong: later volumes (currently being cataloged) include a number of satires that take the form of auction catalogs and household inventories in addition to the more standard satirical poetry and drama. Keep an eye on this space for more exciting developments.

Authority control, international style

I recently attend the RBMS Preconference, titled Futures!, in San Diego, where many seminars and discussions focused on the role of linked open data and the Semantic Web in the future of information discovery and manipulation.  Several speakers discussed projects that use the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), a joint project of several national and regional libraries and library agencies hosted by OCLC.  The goal of the project is to make authority control more cost-effective and useful by matching and linking information in widely used authority files that include personal and corporate names, place names, and titles.

International authority files like VIAF and the CERL Thesaurus have been a great help to our work cataloging French pamphlets.  It was not unusual during much of the history of printing for the name of an author or publisher to appear in the language of the printed text rather then the native language of that individual.

Just this morning I noticed an example of the “Frenchification” of the name of an 18th-century German bookseller, Christian Friedrich Voss, as Chretien Frederic Voss.  Normally, we would use the authorized heading for a given person as it appears in the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF), but in this case, there is no name heading for our bookseller in this file.  Fortunately, Voss is in VIAF, where his authority record shows the authorized version of his name in the authority files of five national libraries and library agencies.  In this case, all five headings use the German form of Voss’s name, although the name is spelled alternately with “ß” and “ss” and one heading does not include his birth year.  Some of the authority records also indicate that Voss sold books under the variant first name Chretien Frederic.  Additional information such as book titles with which he is associated, co-authors or publishers with which he worked, and a map of countries of publication make explicit the relationships between the bookseller and the books he sold and the persons with him he associated, generating a much richer and internationally accessible portrait of one man of a certain time and place.

Researching Catholic clergy

Many of the religious collections at the Newberry Library, including the Saint-Sulpice Collection, are comprised of works by and about Catholic bishops and cardinals.  Just as we would do for any item that we catalog, we strive to create a normalized, uniform name heading for the author or subject as part of our authority control efforts.  Of course, not every person is accounted for in large, freely available authority files like the Library of Congress Authorities, so we must use other reference sources to discover the most common name by which a person is known (e.g. John Samuel Smith or John S. Smith?) and, if necessary, his or her birth or death dates.

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, while not officially sanctioned or maintained by the Catholic Church, is a website that has been particularly helpful for creating full name headings for both clergy and dioceses.  It is arranged by diocese, bishop, country, and major events in the Catholic Church and includes current and historical information.

Marie Antoinette Online

While its authors stress that it is not an academic website, Marie Antoinette Online is an engaging introduction to the life of Marie Antoinette and the time leading up to the French Revolution.  It includes forums for discussion on Marie Antoinette for scholars and others interested in her life and role in 18th-century French history.  It also includes a concise overview of the lascivious Diamond Necklace Affair, a sensational scandal in 1785 that further marred the queen’s reputation as a frivolous, sexually voracious young woman.

Teaching the French Revolution

Recently I stumbled on the History Channel‘s informative and visually appealing webpage on the French Revolution.  The site contains brief articles, images, and streaming videos on major events, players, and topics of the Revolution: perfect for engaging high school and undergraduate students in a tumultuous moment in history.

Reference sources for French printing and publishing

One of the Newberry Library‘s core collection strengths is the history of printing and the books arts.  Notable among the Newberry’s core collections is the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, which includes more than 100,000 volumes of technical literature and periodicals, 600 cubic feet of archival material, 650 calligraphic manuscripts and 2,100 printed volumes on calligraphy, 68,000 volumes of printing samples, and more than 15,000 items of printed ephemera.

One of the four pamphlet collections that we are cataloging for this project–the Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials–forms part of the Wing collection.  Our other French pamphlet collections complement the printing history materials in the Wing collection and contain examples of engraving and relief printing, provincial imprints, and examples of printers’ devices and type ornaments from the 16th to 19th centuries.  We have used many bibliographies, dictionaries, and other reference sources to research printers, booksellers, and publishers in France, and I would like to share those resources with anyone who may be interested in French printing history.

Arbour, Roméo. Dictionnaire des femmes libraires en France, 1470-1870. Genève: Droz, 2003. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .A67 2003)

Women printers, booksellers, and bookbinders.  A limited preview is also available online via Google Books.

Barbier, Frédéric. Lumières du nord: imprimeurs, libraires et “gens du livre” dans le nord au XVIIIe siècle (1701-1789). Genève: Droz, 2002. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .B37 2002)

Printers, booksellers, and other involved in the book trade in northern France.  A limited preview is available online via Google Books.

Baudrier, Henri-Louis. Bibliographie lyonnaise: recherches sur les imprimeurs, libraires, relieurs et fondeurs de lettres de Lyon au XVIe siècle. Lyon: Librairie ancienne d’Auguste Brun, 1895-1921. (Newberry Library call number: Case Wing Z 3239 .L994)

Delalain, P. L’imprimerie et la librairie à Paris de 1789 à 1813. Paris:  Delalain frères, 1900. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .P2131)

A great resource for researching printers active during the French Revolution and the First French Empire.  It is also available online in full via Google Books.

Delalain, P. Les libraires & imprimeurs de l’Académie française de 1634 à 1793. Paris: A. Picard et fils, 1907. (Neberry Library call number: Wing Z 3108 .223)

Desgraves, Louis. Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et relieurs de la Dordogne, des Landes, du Lot-et-Garonne et des Pyrénées-Atlantiques (XVe-XVIIIe siècles). Baden-Baden;  Bouxwiller: Editions V. Koerner, 2005. (Newberry Library call number: Z145.D67 D47 2005)

Desgraves, Louis. Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au XVIIIe siècle. Baden-Baden; Bouxwiller: V. Koerner, 1988- (Newberry Library call number: Z1016 .D48 1988)

Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre à Paris, 1701-1789. Genève: Droz, 2007- (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .D53 2007)

Detailed biographical entries for numerous Parisian printers of the 18th century prior to the Revolution.  A limited preview of the first volume is also available online via Google Books.

Forestié, Emerand. Histoire de l’imprimerie et de la librairie à Montauban. Montauban: É. Forestié, 1898. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .M76)

Printing and bookselling in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, 1518-1874.  Also freely available online via Google Books.

Labadie, Ernest. Notices biographiques sur les imprimeurs et libraires bordelais des XVI., XVII. et XVIII. siècles. Bordeaux: M. Mounastre-Picamilh, 1900. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .B645)

Printers and booksellers in the Bordeaux region, 16th-18th century; in Bordeaux and Gironde, 19th century.  Freely available online via Google Books.

Lepreux, Georges. Gallia typographica, ou, Répertoire biographique et chronologique de tous les imprimeurs de France depuis les origines de l’imprimerie jusqu’à la Révolution. Paris: H. Champion, 1909-14. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .5)

Lhote, Amédée. Histoire de l’imprimerie à Châlons-sur-Marne. Chalons-sur-Marne: Martin frères; Paris: A. Claudin, 1894. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .C355)

Biographical and bibliographical notices on booksellers, printers, publishers, and binders of Châlons-sur-Marne, 1488-1894.   Also available online in full via Google Books.

Lottin, Augustin-Martin. Catalogue chronologique des libraires et des libraires-imprimeurs de Paris, depuis l’an 1470, époque de l’établissement de l’imprimerie dans cette capitale, jusqu’à présent. Paris: Chez Jean-Roch Lottin de St. Germain, 1789. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 46739 .523)

Directory of Parisian booksellers and printers, 1470-1788.  Freely available online via Google Books.

Moreau, Brigitte. Inventaire chronologique des éditions parisiennes du XVIe siècle. Paris: Service des travaux historiques de la ville de Paris, 1972- (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z145.P3 M67 1972)

Les Presses grises: la contrefaçon du livre (XVIe-XIXe siècles). Paris: Aux Amateurs de livres, 1988. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z584 .P74 1988)

Pirated editions in France.

Renouard, Philippe. Imprimeurs & librairies parisiens du XVIe siècle. Paris: Service des travaux historiques de la ville de Paris, 1964- (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z305 .R45)

Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au seizième siècle. Baden-Baden: Heitz, 1968-1980. (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z2162 .R4)

Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au XVIIe siècle. Baden-Baden: V. Koerner, 1978- (Newberry Library call number: Z2162 .D47)

Thoinan, Er. Les relieurs français (1500-1800). Paris: E. Paul, L. Huard et Guillemin,  1893. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 4339 .755)

Biographical notices on French bookbinders.  Also available online in full via Google Books.

Turning a new leaf

La Revolution a retrempé les ames des Français; elle les forme chaque jour aux vertus républicaines. Le temps ouvre un nouveau livre à l’histoire ; & dans sa marche nouvelle, majestueuse & simple comme l’égalité, il doit graver d’un burin neuf & vigoureux les annales de la France régénérée.

(The Revolution has replenished the spirits of the French ; every day it forms them to republican virtues. The times open a new book to history, and in its new course—majestic and simple as equality—one must carve with a new and vigorous chisel the annals of a regenerated France.  [Romme, Rapport sur l’ère républicaine, Case FRC 24687, p. 2.])

It’s early January, and the passage of time is very much on our minds as we hang new calendars and make resolutions. Just as a new year invites fresh beginnings, so, too, can fresh beginnings invite a new measure of time, resetting the clock.

Calendrier republicain décrété par la Convention nationale, pour la IIe année de la République françoise [i.e. 1793-1794], avec les mois et jours correspondans de l'ancien calendrier. (Case FRC 1618)

Case FRC 1618

The authors of the French Revolution marked their epoch-making changes with a new Republican calendar, one that would commemorate the new republic’s Age-of-Reason ideals in both structure and taxonomy.  The Gregorian calendar is untidy in its uneven months and septenary weeks, and its nomenclature is a palimpsest of religious and political accretions.

The mathematician-politician who spearheaded the Republican calendar, Charles Gilbert Romme, asserted in no uncertain terms that the old calendar was a tool of the ancien régime.

Chez tous les peuples, le calendrier a été un talisman puissant que les prêtres ont toujours su diriger avec succès, pour s’attacher la classe nombreuse des esprits foibles. Chaque mois, chaque jour, chaque heure offroient à leur crédulité de nouveaux mensonges. C’est aux Français de la nouvelle Ere qu’il appartient de faire servir le calendrier à propager le vrai, le juste, l’utile, en faisant aimer la patrie & tout ce qui peut assurer sa prospérité.

 (For all peoples, the calendar has been a powerful talisman that priests have always used successfully to bind the multitude of weak minds.  Each month, each day, each hour plied their gullibility with new lies. It is left to the French of the new era to make the calendar serve to spread the True, the Just, the Useful, in fostering a love of country and all that which can assure prosperity. [Romme, p. 14.])

Year one began on 22 September 1792 with the ratification of the Constitution; thenceforth the first of the year would coincide with the autumnal equinox.  The French Republican Calendar, like other aspects of the metric system then being introduced, would be decimal: each month would consist of thirty days and be divided into three, ten-day weeks or “decades.”  (So, too, would time be decimalized, with the alarming consequence of a day consisting of ten 144-minute hours.)

Vendémiaire. Premier mois de l’année Républicaine ; il tire son nom du mot vindemia qui signifie vendanges.

Case FRC 1618 (detail)

The result can be seen in Case FRC 1816, the first page of which shows the first month of year II of the French Republic.  In this pocket calendar, the derivation of the month’s name is explained, then the days are arrayed: day of the month, day of the decade, object of commemoration, and finally—and from a practical standpoint, most importantly—the conversion to the “common era” (ere vulgair).

Romme envisioned a calendar that would be “useful above all to those who work the fields, since the calendar should be simple like nature, from which it is inseparable” (Nous avons cherché ce qui pouvoir convenir sur-tout à l’homme des champs, dont le calendrier doit être simple comme la nature, dont il ne se sépare jamais).  To this end, the days of the decade are given straightforward numerical appellations: primidi, duodi, tridi.  The names of the months reflect the season: vendemiaire, as the pamphlet explains, derives from vendemia, the grape harvest.  (Romme suggested politically-charged names that were, in the end, not adopted.)  Saints’ days are replaced with commemorations of natural things: grapes, saffron, chestnuts.

As the elimination of saints’ days attests, a calendar “simple like nature” must be free of religious connotations.  The function of the Sabbath—rest and moral instruction—would be assumed by the decadi, and traditional feasts commemorating the lives or deeds of religious figures would be supplanted by new celebrations exalting secular virtues.

Nivôse : à l’Industrie, à l’Amitié, à l’Hiver, et à la Sagesse, fruit des années.

Case FRC 22157 (detail)

In one slate of proposed festivals (Case FRC 22157), for example, the decadi of nivôse (corresponding to late December and early January) would be dedicated to industry, to friendship, and “to winter and wisdom, fruit of the years.”  The struggle between the old and the new systems is reflected in the satirical Combat sanglant entre le dimanche et le decadi (Case FRC 1814). The difficulty of the switch was perhaps less philosophical than practical: a ten-day week was very long, indeed.

Combat sanglant entre le dimanche et le decadi.

Case FRC 1814

The Republican Calendar, abolished in 1805, was relatively short-lived.  Another alteration in how time was marked and experienced was longer lasting: the removal of church bells.  In some Revolutionary quarters, bell-ringing was seen as an aural manifestation of the ancien régime, imposing the rhythms of the Catholic Church on the very soundscape of daily life.  As church and state were uncoupled and monastic orders were suppressed, bells began to be removed.  Thanks to the Republic’s pressing need for copper (and in an odd reversal of the swords to ploughshares principle), decrees of summer 1793 ordered church bells melted down and converted into cannon.  Meanwhile, the aural fabric of cities was changed for good, as 80% of French bells were lost to the Revolution.

The question of bells, soundscapes, the ancien régime, and the experience of time and history in France is big news in 2012. As The New York Times recently reported, the mid-19th-century bells currently hung at Notre Dame in Paris are set to be replaced by 17th-century reproductions.  This restoration project has sparked controversy, stirring up strong feelings about the bells being replaced and the political significance of reinstating this aspect of the ancien régime.  The controversy betrays the talismanic quality of those things that help us mark time and serves as a reminder that the French Revolution is very much still with us.

Today is 17 nivôse, year 220 of the French Republic. This calendar converter is a handy tool for translating Gregorian dates into the Republican calendar, among others.


The Revolution on stage

Researchers interested in French theater of the Revolutionary period will be happy to learn that the University of Warwick has digitized their collection of Revolutionary plays. The Marandet Collection of French Plays consists of over 2000 works from the period 1700-1830, 301 of which date from the Revolutionary decade (1789-1799). These digital files are freely available to the public and are fully key-word searchable.

The Marandet Collection complements the vein of theatrical material that runs through our French Revolution Collection (FRC). To date, roughly 246 FRC items have been cataloged with theatrical genre or subject headings (drama, comedies, tragedies, operas, etc.). Whenever possible, our records link to freely available electronic versions. The first record to link to the Marandet Collection is FRC 23673, Le Conteur, ou, Les deux postes, a three-act comedy by L.B. Picard, published in 1794 or 1795.