Judging a book by its cover

With support from the Florence Gould Foundation and the Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Fund, the Newberry Library recently acquired a French pamphlet that is ostensibly a  duplicate copy of a pamphlet in the Library’s French Revolution Collection. But as Shawn’s previous post “‘Lecteur, prenez-garde’, or, Some duplicates do more than duplicate” indicates, a copy may have a rich history of usage specific only to that particular copy.

Procès-verbal de la Conféderation des François, a Paris (Case folio DC169.07 .P76 1790)

Issued in 1790, Procès-verbal de la Conféderation des François, a Paris (Case folio DC169.07 .P76 1790) contains proceedings, decrees, and letters dated July 10-24, 1790, regarding planned festivities for the Fête de la Féderation. This official festival was a series of celebrations throughout France in support of the new (but short-lived) constitutional monarchy. An official ceremony took place on July 14, 1790, the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, on the Champ de Mars (at the time just outside of Paris). During this ceremony,  King Louis XVI pledged his loyalty to the National Assembly and his commitment to upholding the Constitution (although not ratified until 1791) and the laws issued by this elected body.

Unlike the Newberry’s copy of these proceedings in its French Revolution Collection, which does not have a cover, the newly acquired copy of the Procès-verbal is bound in contemporary paper wrappers printed in the familiar red, white, and blue vertical stripes of the Tricolore, which was adopted as the national flag of France in 1790. The wrappers are printed using the technique known as papier peint, a printing technique of the period used for making wallpaper.

Cover of Procès-verbal de la Conféderation des François, a Paris (Case folio DC169.07 .P76 1790)

The name of the  intended recipient of this copy is handwritten on the paper label pasted to the front cover: A Monsieur, a Carbier, colonel de la garde nationale du district de Castres, departement du Tarn [To Mr. Carbier, colonel of the National Guard in the district of Castres, department of Tarn]. A cursory search for Colonel Carbier did not yield any additional information about this guardsman.

Materials bound in at the beginning of Procès-verbal de la Conféderation des François, a Paris (Case folio DC169.07 .P76 1790)

Pasted to the inside front cover is a notice to the members of the local National Guard units (akin to local militias) who participated in the festivities of the Fête de la Féderation. Also bound in at the beginning are a letter of transmittal signed by member of the Assemblée-Fédérative (responsible for the planning of the Fête) and a prospectus advertising the forthcoming Essai historique sur les gardes nationales, a history of the French National Guard by Pierre Vaqué, a colonel in the National Guard of Calonges and secretary of the Assemblée-Fédérative. This book appears never to have been published.

While the content of a primary source like this pamphlet is always important for scholarship, the provenance of source materials and the vestiges of how they were used at the time they were issued provide important contextual information and open new avenues of scholarly inquiry. The burn mark on the title page of this copy of the Procès-verbal further reveals that this pamphlet was indeed used and has its own stories to tell.

not-so-revolutionary diagnostics

For your consideration: a handbill (Case FRC 27552) describing the medical training and expertise of physician Antoine-François Maillet.

Case FRC 27552

Dr. Maillet lists a copious repertoire of maladies he is capable of treating and, at the end, invites prospective patients to send him urine samples for diagnosis.  It would seem he was peripatetic (or perhaps just prudent), since the printed text leaves his domicile blank.  In the Newberry’s copy, “Il est logé chez” is completed in manuscript with “Bonnet a Riom”– presumably Saint-Bonnet-près-Riom.

Case FRC 27552

Uroscopy, a diagnostic method practiced since antiquity, was still in use at the turn of the 20th century, as this doctor’s test case shows.  For every 500 pamphlets in FRC with the Library of Congress Subject Heading of, say, “Taxation–France–Early Works to 1800,” there will  be one with completely novel subject matter.  This pamphlet was the first “Urine–Diagnostic use–France–Early works to 1800 ” that I’ve come across in two years.  It is rivaled in novelty only, perhaps, by the subject heading  “Uterus–Religious aspects–Drama–Early works to 1800 ” that came up for two oratorios in the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection.

Papal conclave in satire and song

Papal coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See

In light of the papal conclave that commences in earnest today, I give you this:

Il conclave dell’anno MDCCLXXIV : dramma per musica da recitarsi nel Teatro delle dame nel conclave del MDCCLXXV.

The piece is an operatic satire of the epically long conclave (October 1774 to February 1775) that resulted in the election of Giovanni Angelo Braschi (Pius VI).  The Newberry has two editions of this work, both in the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection and recently cataloged (see below for details).  Though attributed to Pietro Metastasio and Niccolò Piccini in the introductory matter, Il conclave dell’anno MDCCLXXIV is actually by Gaetano Sertor who, according to Oscar Sonneck (Librettos, I, p. 307), “simply used the two names then most in vogue.”

Our two editions — slight variants, both printed by Gian Francesco Chracas — are

If you are curious about Sertor’s satire but can’t get to our reading rooms, one of these is now available online via Google Books:

Title page of Il conclave dell'anno MDCCLXXIV (via Google Books)

Il conclave dell'anno MDCCLXXIV (via Google Books)


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.


Public program on French history this weekend at the Newberry

Join us at the Newberry this Saturday, February 23, at 1:00 pm for a public program offered in conjunction with the exhibition Politics, Piety, and Poison: French Pamphlets, 1600-1800.  The program and exhibition both highlight the four major French pamphlet collections cataloged through our project.  I will talk about the cataloging project and some highlights of the exhibition.  Joining me will be two Chicago-area scholars of French history, Ellen McClure and Yann Robert, who will discuss their recent scholarship.  We hope to see you there!

Delving into French History from the Sun King to the Revolution

Pamphlet on the execution of Louis XVI
Pamphlet on the execution of Louis XVI
An Exhibition Program
Saturday, February 23, 2013

1 pm

Ruggles Hall

Think contemporary American political debate is vicious? Our experience is mild compared with seventeenth and eighteenth-century French political infighting, a period famous for royal claims to divine right and for regicide. The Newberry holds the best pamphlet collection in North America on French politics and religion, much of which has been cataloged recently, which means that individual pamphlets appear in the library’s online catalog and are more accessible to readers. Join UIC scholars Ellen McClure and Yann Robert, and Newberry librarian Jessica Grzegorski as they discuss some of the most vigorous debates of this period, fought with the seventeenth and eighteenth-century version of twitter: cheap, ubiquitous pamphlets and broadsides.

This program is offered in conjunction with a Newberry exhibition, Politics, Piety, and Poison: French Pamphlets, 1600-1800, which highlights the completion of a major grant-funded project to catalog a majority of the library’s French pamphlet collection.

Ellen McClure is Associate Professor of History and French and Francophone Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She studies seventeenth-century literature, politics, and religion, with a focus on the Sun King, Louis XIV.

Yann Robert is Assistant Professor of French at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He examines the intersection of literature, justice, and politics in eighteenth-century France, with a particular focus on the theater of the French Revolution.

Jessica Grzegorski is Senior Cataloging Projects Librarian at the Newberry and co-curator of the Politics, Piety, and Poison exhibition.

Cost and registration information:

This program is free and no reservations are required.

“Excusez l’état crasseux de ce mandement,” or, More ridicule from the margins

Last summer I wrote about a 1797 pamphlet covered in manuscript annotations taking the writer to task on issues of church and state.  Something similar from the dawn of the Revolution has just worked its way through the workflow.   Mandement de Monseigneur l’évêque de Périgueux, qui ordonne des prières publiques dans tout son diocese pendant la tenue des États généraux du royaume (Case folio FRC 26783) bears an apology on the cover:  “Excusez l’état crasseux de ce mandement.  Je le tiens d’un curé indecrassable”  (Excuse the execrable state of this mandement.  I think it’s written by an inexecrable prelate).

Case folio FRC 26783

The anonymous former reader/owner of the mandement has filled it with angry comments and rhetorical questions, numbered for your convenience.  Some of his concerns are spiritual, but just as often they are financial–after all, the Estates-General of 1789 were convened to address the realm’s dire financial problems.

Here are a few examples of the reader’s annotations.

"10. That's all well and good: but the deficit?" "11 But the deficit?" "12 So fathers are more pious than sons? Aeneas gives us an example of the contrary."

“15 A great vicar of Périgueux and secretary to the bishop died in 1777 with a fortune of more than 200000 that he earned trafficking in contraband tobacco”

Spotlight Exhibit on French pamphlets opens!

We are pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibition highlighting the French pamphlet collections cataloged as part of our project: the French Revolution Collection (FRC), Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection, Saint-Sulpice Collection, and Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials.  Politics, Piety, and Poison: French Pamphlets, 1600-1800 is one in a series of Spotlight Exhibits curated by Newberry Library staff that highlight a diverse range of items in the Library’s collection.  The exhibition closes April 13, 2013.  For those who are unable to visit, an online version of the exhibition is in the works.

Politics, Piety, and Poison: French Pamphlets, 1600–1800

Case FRC 16228, La guillotinne
Case FRC 16228, La guillotinne
Monday, January 28, 2013 to Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hermon Dunlap Smith Gallery

This exhibition displays French pamphlets published during the transitional period from the Ancien Régime to the French Revolution. They served as modes of dissemination and diversion, teaching tools and educational models, and the foundation for current and future scholarly projects. The exhibition focuses on the ways in which these pamphlets complement and enhance the Newberry’s other vast collections of primary sources documenting early modern European culture and the history of printing. The Newberry’s outstanding collection of French pamphlets was recently cataloged through a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Extra weird Dutch poetry

Cataloging the Dutch pamphlets in reverse chronological order has resulted in some interesting discoveries. As somebody who came into this project with no knowledge of Dutch history outside of the Napoleonic wars, I’ve certainly learned quite a bit. The reverse chronological order has actually been helpful in this respect, as it enables me to work backwards from a period of history I am at least somewhat comfortable in, and by examining the backgrounds to those events it becomes easier to figure out what these pamphlets are talking about without having to do too much additional research. (The fact that the vast majority of the Dutch pamphlets deal with major political upheavals makes research easier as well, since I can usually find English or French language sources that clarify the content of the pamphlets without having to muddle my way through yet more Dutch). As a result, I have a completely new perspective on the time period, since moving from effect to cause has resulted in a more nuanced view of history (at least on my end).


F 46 .655 v. 21 no. 9 title page

Considering that this will most likely be my final post on this blog, I have decided to share one of the most bizarre items I have had the pleasure of cataloging for this project. That item is the Antwoord van Daniel Raap … (F 46 .655 v. 21 no. 9). In a rare case of a pamphlet actually being honest about its content, the title page describes it as “extra raar” (lit. “extra weird”). What follows is fairly standard for the mid-18th century Dutch pamphlets, poetry describing the conflicts between Orangists and Republicans in the Netherlands. In this case, as Raap was the leader of the Doelists, it supports a return to the hereditary rule of the house of Orange-Nassau but advocated for democratic elections and absolute cognatic succession. There are quite a few pamphlets of this type in the collection, but this specific piece is noteworthy because of its inclusion of the Arlequin francois[sic].

F 46 .655 v. 21 no. 9 "Arlequin francois"

Arlequin francois is also a poem, but the language is nearly incomprehensible. Each line of the poem is a morass of grammatically intertwined Dutch and French. It’s unclear whether this choice was made just to be difficult, as a subtly comment on Franco-Dutch relations, or simply to make it easier to rhyme (as in the opening lines: “Rarekiek, messieurs, rarekiek watte vreemds enne bezondre / kieke rekt toe, watte dink, c’est par diable grand wondre”). The whole thing is totally bizarre, and appears to be some smack at the excesses of various factions. This fits with other items in the volume that suggest controversy surrounding the political activities of Amsterdam’s wine merchants. Inexplicable poetry has been a pretty common occurrence on this project, but bizarre linguistic mash-ups have been extra rare. Won’t some Dutch history expert come to the Newberry and figure out what this is supposed to be?

Curious tail-pieces in BLC 623

Throughout the process of cataloging the materials in the French Pamphlet Project I have seen quite a number of interesting title vignettes, head- or tail-pieces (see my previous post on the Head-pieces of the Imprimerie royale), and other interesting type ornaments, but the tail-pieces that I encountered while cataloging BLC 623 (ML50.2.P76 L85 1683) seemed particularly worthy of a short blog post.

Howard Mayer Brown Libretto collection 623 is a bound-with volume containing 18 libretti printed between 1672-1695. Of these, ten were printed by the Amsterdam printer Abraham Wolfgang (fl. 1658-1694):

And three by his cousin and successor, Antoine Schelte (1673-1698):

Those printed by Abraham Wolfgang only indicate that he was the printer through the use of his printing device: a tree with bee’s next and fox with the motto, Quaerendo (see below). Those issued by Schelte include his name along with the Wolfgang device.

Abraham Wolfgang printer's device.

What is most interesting, however, about the Wolfgang/Schelte libretti are the curious tail-pieces printed throughout these 13 libretti.  By far the most common is a monkey-like creature, appearing at least five times.

Monkey-like creature tail-piece

Other creatures include a fox,  a spider and three bees on a rose, a rather demonic looking squirrel, and a dog defecating on a violin (which seemed to be almost as popular as the monkey, I counted three instances in these libretti).

Fox tail-piece.

Rose with bees & spider tail-piece.

Squirrel tail-piece.

Dog & violin tail-piece.

There are also several tail-pieces featuring birds.  The remainder of the tail-pieces found in these libretti are more traditional, usually with some sort of floral or vegetal design.  It seems that there should be some research done (if not already — I looked but was unable to come up with anything) on the use of these animal tail-pieces by the Wolfgang press, or at least a list of known designs.


Embroidered bindings from Barcelona

Because most of the libretti in the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (BLC) are housed in archival envelopes, the process of cataloging feels a bit like unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning.  Every  item has the potential to be a treasure.

Recently there were three in a row that were unusually thick and that grated strangely against their housing — what could these be?  They were the first of seven libretti in jewel-like bindings: boards covered in silk embroidered with metallic thread, ribbon, and sequins.

The first three jewels: Case ML50.2.A78 P53 1763 (BLC 439), Case ML50.2.P67 S33 1761 (BLC 440), Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441).

All of the works were published in Barcelona by Francisco Genéras. Although library collocation numbers on the inside front covers indicate that they came from the same library, no further evidence of provenance is immediately apparent.

Case ML50.2.A78 P53 1763 (BLC 439). Embroidered binding, detail.

Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441) — Carlo Goldoni’s Mondo della luna — was a particular treat since, in addition to the interesting binding, it offered up one of my favorite clusters of subject headings:

  • Credulity–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.
  • Marriage–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.
  • Extraterrestrial beings–Drama[/Humor]–Early works to 1800.

Case ML50.2.M67 G65 1765 (BLC 441). Embroidered binding, detail.