Tag Archives: biographies

For favorites, pride goeth before a fall

For your consideration, two cautionary tales.

Royal favorites—whether confidants, lovers, or powerful political lieutenants—were magnets for controversy, their rise and fall followed closely by politicos and populace alike. In quick succession, the Saint Sulpice Collection has recently offered up pamphlets dealing with a couple of these characters.

The first, La disgrace de Baradas (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 v. 6 no. 6) of 1626, lambastes François de Baradas (1602-1684), the handsome officer of the royal household who was Louis XIII’s first love. Written as an allegory in the voice of “Maistre Bontemps,” La disgrace de Baradas mercilessly takes to task “ces petits Phaetonneax d’orgueil & d’ambition” (these little Phaëtons of pride and ambition) who overreach and get their comeuppance. It took only six months for Baradas to fall from favor, either for fighting an illegal duel or for taking other lovers; the sources disagree. This episode made “la fortune de Baradas” a French idiom for short-lived good fortune.

The second pamphlet, the Histoire admirable, et declin pitoyable aduenu en la personne d’vn fauory de la Cour d’Espagne (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 v. 12 no. 7), tells the tale of Rodrigo Calderón (1580s-1621), secretary to Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, Duke of Lerma, who was, in turn, the royal favorite or valido of King Philip III of Spain. Wielding enormous political power, Lerma left much of the work—and eventually its consequences—to his trusted secretary. The duke was savvy enough to seek out a cardinalship, giving him ecclesiastical immunity from prosecution, so when he fell from power in 1618 he couldn’t be touched. His enemies, instead, set upon Calderón, who was convicted of several murders and a host of lesser charges. The Histoire admirable is devoted mostly to the pitiable decline (ever the more interesting part), specifically Calderón’s torture and execution in 1621, along with details of what became of his wealth.

Like Baradas, Calderón contributed to his nation’s lexicon.  He took his death sentence with such bravery (bravado?), that even today a person who is immoderately proud is said to “tener más orgullo que Don Rodrigo en la horca” (be prouder than Don Rodrigo on the scaffold).

A simple turn of phrase

From the opening of the Description d’un grand ouvrage fait au tour simple, par M. Barreau (Saint Sulpice Collection ser. 1 v. 6 no. 16):

The author, in putting together this work, had the intention of rendering it worthy of His Imperial and Royal Majesty [Napoleon].  He wanted to honor him with a piece that united all the difficulties of an art the perfection of which is indispensably applicable to the other arts that will use the procedures for so long sought and found by M. Barreau, by the sole activity of tour simple.

(L’auteur, en composant cet ouvrage, a eu l’intention de le rendre digne de S.M.I. et R. Il a voulu lui faire hommage d’une pièce qui réunis toutes les difficultés d’un art, dont la perfection est indispensablement applicable aux autres arts qui utiliseront pour eux-mêmes les procédés cherchés long-temps, et trouvés par M. Barreau, par la seule activité du tour simple.)

The pamphlet goes on to describe in some detail the work of art in question, as one would expect given the title, but it took some detective work to discover the very simple definition of tour simple.  That term and “l’art du tour” are such generic phrases that finding an apt definition was a little tricky.  M. Barreau’s surname—which means “bar” (also the legal kind)—does not help matters.  As with so many linguistic conundrums, once I found the answer, it seems obvious: M. Barreau was an expert wood turner.

Among practitioners of the art, François Barreau (1731-1814) is a  well-known figure, in fact the greatest turner of 18th-century France.  He was known in the ancien regime, survived the Revolution, and lived into the 19th century when he presented his masterworks to the emperor and was acclaimed by the artistic and scientific establishment.  Perhaps one of our Sulpicians had a soft spot for him, since this pamphlet is followed by four more, all of which are official reports on the fabulousness of Barreau’s creations.

Example of work by Francois Barreau (from the site "Bois d'Harmonie")

One of these reports, made at the 79th meeting of the Athénée des Arts, 6 September 1807, ends with a description of the literal crowning of this master artist:

Monsieur, seventy-six years of work have only refined your taste without changing the firmness of this hand accustomed to producing new marvels every day. In your hand, the simple chisel is turning’s scepter: in the name of the Athénée des Arts, I place upon your head the crown.

(Monsieur, soixante-seize ans de travail n’ont fait qu’épurer votre goût sans altérer la fermeté de cette main habituée à produire chaque jour de nouveaux prodiges. Pour elle le simple ciseau est le sceptre du tour : au nom de l’Athénée des Arts, j’en pose sur votre tête la couronne.)

Photographs of Barreau’s work are hard to come by on the web (one exception is the linked photo above), but his works are held in prominent French museums, including the Louvre.

Making assumptions about the Sulpicians

Portrait of Louis Boucherat

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 5 no. 3

One of the emphases in cataloging materials at the Newberry, and one of the special focus of the library’s collections as a whole is the examination of collections of materials. Putting together a collection requires certain decisions, and analyzing the state of the collection can help provide insights into the motives of the collectors who put them together.

The Saint-Sulpice Collection provides some easy opportunities for putting these principles into practice. From a cataloging perspective, these collection-management decisions make a real impact on the cataloging workflow – dramatically, in the case of these materials.

The obvious aspect of the Saint-Sulpice Collection is the binding – unlike the French Revolution Collection, where virtually all of the pamphlets are loose, the Saint-Sulpice materials have been bound into discrete volumes. This makes the material more useful from a user-centered perspective, assuming a relatively small number of individuals will be accessing the material, but presents technical difficulties when cataloging the material. This is compounded by the organizational method used on these volumes.

The collection is organized biographically by subject – this (probably) reflects the purpose of the collection – it is not organized by author, so the emphasis is demonstrably not on the potential literary criticism aspects of the collection. This organization was taken to such an extreme that collective biographies were, for the most part, split so that the pages dealing with specific individuals were bound with the other material on those persons. This creates fairly unpleasant chores for the cataloger, who must then decide to either create a record for the intact item and link all the various parts (strewn across multiple volumes) or to create new records for each individual part and somehow convey that they “belong” to a larger volume.

While these decisions create more work for lonely catalogers, they make sense in the context of the collection and its uses. Binding all of the pamphlets into larger volumes makes them less likely to be misplaced and helps protect the original ephemera from damage. Binding the items together and organizing them by subject rather than author is also much more convenient for users. All the items on a given individual are contiguous, and because they are bound together no matter how they are used, short of disbinding  the volume, they will not end up out-of-order.  In some ways, this demonstrates how much library collections have changed – techniques which make organizing a collection easier in an age before fancy OPACs now make cataloging more time consuming, if not more difficult.

Surprises from Saint-Sulpice

Series two of the Saint-Sulpice collection consists primarily of funeral orations and sermons for great personages: monarchs, nobles, bishops, abbesses, intellectuals.  It’s all very grand, very elevated.  The engraved vignettes and head-pieces can be truly lovely, as the armorial title vignette from Paul de Godet des Marais’ funeral oration shows.

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34 no. 30, title vignette.

The endless oraisons funèbres can, however, also be something of a bore.  My intellectual interests tend towards the ephemeral and the popular (or at least the personal), so officialdom isn’t really my bailiwick.  That’s not to say that Saint-Sulpice isn’t interesting!  Only that coming across something that doesn’t fit the mold is especially gratifying and can produce some interesting surprises.

Not long ago, for example, in doing peer review I came across a memoire of a legal case (novel!) involving a certain aristocratic nun (typical!), Marie-Thérese Brunet  (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 6 no. 14).  For this bound volume of funeral sermons, though, the case itself was anything but run-of-the-mill: a cruel servant had tormented and poisoned Brunet’s pet monkey (whoa… oh dear).  The court pondered the ramifications of this breach of decorum: “Problême: une religieuse fortement attachée à son singe, qu’une fille a eu la cruauté d’assommer, combien perd-t-elle d’honneur? combien perd-t-elle de plaisir?“  That was certainly the first time “Animal welfare” and “Monkeys as pets” have come up as subject headings for this project, at least on my watch.  I did a double-take upon first seeing the word “singe!”


"Voicy Mandrin, le chef d'une troupe brigande ..."

More recently, in working through another Saint-Sulpice volume (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34) I struck a little vein of historical lore.  Tucked between an éloge for scientist Paul-Jacques Malouin and the sermon for bishop Paul de Godet des Marais (seen above), there were three brief works on Louis Mandrin, chef des contrebandiers.  As has so often happened to me in working on the CLIR project, I had stumbled upon something famous but utterly new to me.  A Google search of Louis Mandrin reveals a rich popular legacy in song and image and film.

It turns out that Mandrin (1725-1755) the brigand and smuggler is the Robin Hood of France, having led a revolt against the fermiers généraux*the immensely rich and roundly hated tax collectors.  Eventually, he was captured and sentenced to death, as the first of our pamphlets documents (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34 no. 27, see below). His struggle against the ancien régime earned him followers not only in the populace but also among the likes of Voltaire.  The website www.mandrin.org (in French) is a thorough and beautiful resource on Mandrin’s life and legacy.

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34 no. 27, detail.

The second Mandrin pamphlet is an oraison funèbre, styled like the funeral sermons that were common at the timeprecisely the oraisons funèbres that populate most of this collection.  In place of a Bible verse, there is a line from the Roman poet Claudian, and the “sermon” unfolds in two parts, the first devoted to his family background, the second to his works.  The anonymous author praises Mandrin’s accomplishments and mocks those from whom he stole.  He rescued the rich the lethal, corrupting gold that brings all the vices that accompany luxury.

Ingrats, vous ne compreniez pas les avantages inestimables de  cet échange. Pour de l’or il vous donnoit des vertus. [p. 3]

Ingrates, you don’t understand the inestimable advantages of this exchange.  For gold he gives you virtue.

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34 no. 28.

This work may be satirical.  The pamphlet concludes with a song (see below)an element, of course, lacking in orations for kings and bishops. The ballad must have already been in circulation since the caption title promises that it has been updated with an account of his death. The description of Mandrin’s brutality attest, at the very least, to a legacy that was not entirely positive.

Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 34 no. 28, p. 7.

*The notion of “tax farming” and, from there, the very meaning of “farming” itself have proven to be one of my favorite mind-bending discoveries during this project.  I highly recommend checking the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry for farm and farmer.

Yes, there’s something for everone in the Saint-Sulpice Collection!

Assuming, of course, everyone is interested in the history of France and/or the Catholic Church.

The vast majority of the pamphlets collected in the Saint-Sulpice Collection (at least so far) are funeral addresses of clergy or political figures, interspersed with some other biographical material (largely circular letters to/from various French monasteries). Aside from the obvious genealogical interest generated by these biographical materials and fortunately for those with short attention spans, or those for whom learning obscure biographical details about the various abbesses of the Abbaye du Val-de-Gif is not a priority, the Saint-Sulpice Collection includes various other, occasionally quite interesting, items.

Tail-piece of Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 5 no. 14

For those who are interested in engraving or heraldic devices, the Saint-Sulpice Collection is a veritable treasure trove. Many of the funeral addresses include engravings of the coat of arms of the decedent, occasionally in quite elaborate detail (see Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 8 no. 15). Additionally, there are works hidden here and there that focus entirely on armorial bearings. Occasionally, there are explicitly genealogical works on specific families which also include descriptions and illustrations of coats of arms (for example, Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 4 no. 16).

For those who are fans of French literature, there are more reasons to be excited about the Saint-Sulpice collection. Perhaps you have recently (or not so recently) read Aldous Huxley’s underrated gem The Devils of Loudon, or one or more of the d’Artagnan romances of Alexandre Dumas. Well, the Saint-Sulpice collection includes items written by and for the famous Armand Jean du Plessis, cardinal-duc de Richelieu (see Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 4 no. 5). From the world of fairy tales, there is poetry translated by Charles Perrault, author of the original Mother Goose collection (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 4 no. 39). In fact, poetry is very well represented in the collection, with translations of classical era poetry in addition to a great number of memorial poems for various political and religious figures, frequently in multilingual collections.

There are also exciting opportunities to explore the history of medicine and scientific inquiry in the Saint-Sulpice collection. There are requests to the Académie royale des sciences to study dwarfism, including attempts to ascertain whether the causes are hereditary or perhaps due to some action taken by the mother while pregnant (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 4 no. 34). There are also scientific analyses of apparently miraculous behavior, including close scrutiny and rejection of the phenomena of anorexia mirabilis (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v. 8 no. 4). The collection even includes a eulogy of Bernoulli, given by his son! (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 2 v.  4 no. 8)

New year, new collection

Engraving from Saint-Sulpice Collection (not yet cataloged)

We recently started to catalog the Saint-Sulpice Collection, the fourth and final collection that we will process as part of our French pamphlet cataloging project.  The Newberry Library purchased this collection, comprised of more than 2,500 pamphlets, in 2003.  Compiled and conserved by the Sulpicians of Paris in their seminary library over the course of nearly 200 years, the items in the collection date from the early 16th to the early 19th centuries.

Funeral oration from Saint-Sulpice Collection (not yet cataloged)

Comprised almost entirely of biographical materials, the collection includes funeral orations, epitaphs, death notices, commemorative verses, and éloges, collected as tools for teaching oratory, rhetoric, and other valuable skills to seminarians.  Around 1830, the individual pamphlets were bound into 124 volumes with distinctive green vellum spines and red spine labels.  The pamphlets are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the person described, ranging from princes and statesmen to nuns and abbesses to intellectuals and orators.  Well represented are celebrated orators of the 17th century, such as Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Esprit Fléchier, Louis Maimbourg, Jules Mascaron, and Claude-François Ménestrier.  Equally notable are first editions of short works by Guillaume Budé, Molière, and Blaise Pascal.

Volumes from Saint-Sulpice Collection (not yet cataloged)

While most of the pamphlets are in French and published in Paris or provincial locations in France, several are also in Latin, Italian, or German, and published in other European cities.  Notable among these is a funeral oration for Tycho Brahe.

Perhaps the most fascinating characteristics of the Saint-Sulpice Collection have to do with its provenance.  It is brimming with manuscript material, whether full manuscripts (original texts or copied from published works) or detailed manuscript annotations on published works.  Some controversies and events were meticulously researched.  For example, a series of annotated pamphlets on the decision of the Faculty of Theology of the Sorbonne to ban Sister María de Agreda’s Mystical City of Godpresents a contemporary and uncommonly rich account of the publishing history of a controversial religious work.  The Saint-Sulpice Collection is sure to enrich many avenues of scholarship in religious studies, literary history, and the history of publishing.

Printed and manuscript material from Saint-Sulpice Collection (not yet cataloged)

More tools from the wiki…

Here are some more online resources from the wiki to help in the work of cataloging the pamphlets:

Place names

Name Authority Resources

  • BNF Catalog générale may be useful in resolving unqualified names when M&W isn’t. Under Recherches avancées, search Dans les index, which allows you to browse an index by Auteur (among others). Some names have authority records linked.
  • ETANOT : ETat des NOTaires de Paris - Searchable database maintained by the Centre historique des Archives nationales containing biographical details and addresses of public notaries in France from the 15th century to the present.
  • List of Convention nationale members – A convenient list of members of the Convention nationale, organised by département – useful for finding the right AF.
  • Scholarly Societies Project – Sponsored by the University of Waterloo Library, this project concisely documents the histories, activities, and various names changes of scholarly societies throughout the world with a focus on societies in North America and Europe.  Nearly 200 French societies are included.  This site is helpful for dating pamphlets and for authority control.

Dictionaries and Grammar

Legalese – I’ve found a couple of resources helpful in determining dates of laws and resolutions; search by month, date and key words of law or resolution.  Helpful when you don’t have year of publication.  Both are full text on Google books:

Digitized Pamphlet Collections