Tag Archives: CLIR

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.


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.

Adventures in Cataloging

While nestled within the cozy walls of a barren conference room in the Newberry Library, shivering from the subarctic temperatures of what might be the coldest air conditioning system found in a 19th century building, I was asked at the end of my interview if I had heard about the opening for a job as a cataloging assistant for the CLIR French project. Initially not taking this as a good sign as to my future employment with the Newberry for the job I had just interviewed for, I politely (and probably with a hint of sadness and defeat in my eye) said that I had heard about it, but not until after I had already applied for the job for which I had just finished the interview. Thinking that the lovely women who interviewed me were trying to console me with this prospect of another job that I could apply to instead, saying that it sounded “more up my alley” and something that might be “more interesting to me,” I kindly entertained their suggestions, telling them that although this job seemed like an amazing (and almost unheard of prospect for a graduate in French literature who does not want to immediately continue on with a PhD or teaching) opportunity, I did not think that I was going to apply because I did not have any background in cataloging or library science of any kind. I’m actually pretty sure that I had little to no clue as to what cataloging even was or what catalogers did, but for the purpose of not sounding completely oblivious (and unknowingly offensive to all the hard working catalogers out there—this stuff is tough!), we will just say instead that I had a “hazy” idea.

To make a long story short (despite my urge to mimic both the language and the length of the pamphlets that I am privileged to read on a daily basis), I interviewed for, and actually succeeded in getting the job as a cataloging assistant on the CLIR project. I have to say that I have never been so happy! Not only because this was something new and exciting, and a different way to put my French language skills to use, but it was also the opportunity to get back at all of those fancy engineers and medical students who always scoffed at my “useless” humanities degree (take that, you meanies! I dare you to prove to me that you have as much fun at your job as I do at mine!). All joking aside, I entered into this project knowing absolutely nothing about cataloging (and embarrassingly and unfortunately, not that much about the French Revolution—I should have known skipping that time period during my master’s examination would come back to haunt me), and although I have only been on the project for just about three months now, I feel like I have learned a tremendous amount of very valuable and applicable knowledge in a very short amount of time.

From the day that I began right up to now, the training that I have received on this project has been outstanding to say the least. Through the combination of one-on-one meetings, the use of templates, extremely helpful feedback, and a very hands-on just-throw-her-into-the-deep-end approach, I have been able to dive in and not only work with these amazing historical documents, but also feel like I am actually producing quality work. Thanks to the training (and patience) that I have received from those advising me, I actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing sometimes—not bad for somebody who didn’t even know what cataloging was just three months ago! Additionally, having the opportunity to work on this project has allowed me to take a sneak peek into the world of special collections, something that has always interested me greatly. I have definitely got to have a small taste of what it’s like to work in this field, and it’s a great feeling to know that whichever career path I choose to pursue in the future—library science with an emphasis in special collections, or a PhD in French literature—the invaluable experience that I have gained on this project will serve me very well. If neither one of those career paths pan out for me, at the least I have learned a number of extravagant and imposing ways of signing a document that I have penned. Currently, I have finally entered into the terrifying world of subject headings—wish me luck everybody! I hope I make it out to the other side!
–Signé, your most zealous, loyal, eager, and faithful cataloging assistant-in-training,
Le Chev. A… de G…

Reflections over coffee and ginger snaps

Last week CLIR Program Officer Christa Williford stopped by the Newberry while she was in the Chicago area for a coffee break with our project staff.  Our staff shared some of their thoughts with Christa about their work on the French pamphlet cataloging project and how it has affected their career plans.  Several staff working on the project are currently finishing or have completed graduate programs in library and information science, while others are PhD candidates or hold a master’s degree and had limited or no experience working in libraries before their current positions at the Newberry.  Most of the library school students and graduates felt that they would want to continue with a career in cataloging.  Other project staff mulled over beginning a graduate program in library science or continuing toward a PhD in the fields in which they already hold a master’s degree, including musicology and French literature.

While our staff have somewhat disparate backgrounds and different career paths, the knowledge, enthusiasm, and work ethic that each individual brings to our project have been invaluable.  Our system of peer review of catalog records helps to match complementary skills, strengths, and knowledge bases so that our project team can efficiently create high quality records.

While some cataloging projects are not always appropriate for students and subject specialists without experience in library work, the homogeneity of our French pamphlet collections has made our cataloging project an ideal pilot project for testing the viability of employing students and specialists for certain types of cataloging projects.  For this project, we have been able to rely on the advanced French language skills of our Project Cataloging Assistants and the use of templates, which make our cataloging work consistent and efficient.  As we are more than halfway through our project, it is important to reflect on the successes of our project model so far and to look ahead to how this model can be adapted to future cataloging projects.

CLIR Scholarly Engagement Study

Yesterday we had a great visit with CLIR Scholarly Engagement Study Team members Gabrielle Dean and Tim Stinson and CLIR Program Officer Christa Williford.

Gabrielle and Tim gave a presentation about the CLIR-funded study aimed at tracking successful aspects of user outreach – specifically with scholars –in the 2009 award-winning projects.  The study is collecting information about the ways in which grantee institutions interact with scholars during the grant period.

After the presentation, the group met with our cataloging project staff, collection curators, Library Services staff and staff from the Newberry‘s Research and Academic Programs.

Symposium, part II

The CLIR Hidden Collections Program Symposium was a successful experience — in terms of our presentation of the French pamphlet project, as well as what we were able to learn from the other participants and speakers.  It was gratifying to have so many people interested in the project and to have so many good questions posed to us — many of which we could answer, and some which will give us some good things to consider moving forward.  There was a lot of interest in finding candidates who possessed the linguistic abilities and the aptitude to learn cataloging, especially when it came to filling the part-time positions.  There was also interest and perhaps some surprise that we were creating full catalog records and including thorough subject analysis.  The impression seemed to be that that would make it hard to achieve our production goals for the grant; I believe we’ll be able to achieve the goals.  Time will tell.  I was interested to see how many projects were for archival collections, rather than library collections (monographs, etc.).  I should say the presenters included an equal mix of grant recipients who were nearing completion of their project, as well as those just beginning the project.  Again, it was nice to feel that there was great interest in what we’re doing.

Oh, and Jennifer’s poster was a hit!

CLIR Hidden Collections Program Symposium

Jennifer and I will attend the CLIR Hidden Collections Program Symposium in Washington, D.C., March 29-30.  The program looks good, promising to provide speakers, and break-out sessions in which we’ll get to hear how others have or will be managing their grant-funded projects for hidden collections.  Obviously, we’ll have a chance to share our own plan and experiences thus-far.  I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of collections other institutions are processing.  For the symposium, we’ve created a poster representing the French pamphlet project — it’s a fun motif that resembles in type, illustration and layout many of the pamphlet’s we’re working on.  Kudos to Jennifer for the idea.  Jennifer and I will also be presenting a session entitled:  Parlez-vous français?  Finding and training subject specialists to catalog 18th century French pamphlets, describing our experience in hiring Project Cataloging Assistants, the use of the wiki in training and communication, among other aspects of the project.

Below find our abstract for the presentation:

Parlez-vous français? Finding and training subject specialists to
catalog 18th century French pamphlets

The Newberry Library has a 2009 grant to catalog four French pamphlet
collections, most from the period of the French Revolution. Cataloging
Assistants will create 22,000 item-level, MARC records that provide
sufficient detail for research, adhere to recognized bibliographic
standards, and will be web-accessible and sustainable.

The Cataloging Assistants must have a fluent reading knowledge of
French and be able to work with 18th century, political documents that
may have idiosyncratic spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Some of the
Cataloging Assistants will have little or no library cataloging
experience but must quickly learn to use Connexion and MARC format if
we are to meet production goals.

Several University Libraries have successfully implemented this model
of hiring subject and language specialists to do rapid, hidden
collections cataloging but it will be new for the Newberry. As an
independent research library, the Newberry has no formal connection
with the graduate programs from which we hope to find Cataloging
Assistants and as a small technical services department this grant
will double the size of our cataloging staff.

Jennifer Thom and Eric Nygren will share their experiences,
observations and anxieties in getting this ambitious project up and

C&RL News Announcement of Grant

The Grants and Acquisitions section of College & Research Libraries News (January 2010, 71:46-47)  had a blurb about our grant and project:

The Newberry Library has received a $488,179 three-year grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to catalog approximately 22,000 French pamphlets from four of its collections. The Newberry’s project is one of 14 selected out of 91 proposals in this year’s CLIR Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative. The four Newberry collection include, 1) French Revolution Collection: more than 30,000 pamphlets and 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810. The periodicals and 12,000 anonymously authored pamphlets have already been cataloged, and 18,000 pamphlets with known authors will be cataloged through this grant. 2) Recueil de pieces historiques: At the end of the 18th century in Paris, the religious order of Saint-Sulpice at its headquarters assembled this collection of more than 2,600 biographical pamphlets to serve as an archive of primary source—printed and manuscript—material. Funeral sermons, orations, commemorative discourses, and verses dating from the 16th to the early 19th century were included. Among these are rare first editions of short works by Bude, Pascal, and Moliere. 3) Publishers’ prospectuses and catalogs: Parisian and rare provincial publishers are represented in this unique assemblage of publicity and advertisements for French printing and publishing from 1700–1850. The collection consists of more than 700 pamphlets. 4) Trial and execution of Louis XVI: This contemporary collection of more than 600 rare government pamphlets published at the time of the trial provides information on the collection of evidence, the defense by de Seze, public opinion (including a French tract of American Tom Paine), moral and political reflections on judging and executing the king, and opinions of Convention deputies (e.g., Marat, Saint-Just, Robespierre). The pamphlets are preserved in their original etui binding. Learn more about the program at www.clir.org/hiddencollections/index.html.

Now the Hard Work Really Begins

When writing a grant proposal, it seems like nothing could be more complicated, time consuming and difficult. While writing the CLIR proposal, I was gathering and coordinating information and ideas from many people at the Newberry. Curators provided information about the collections; reference librarians talked to me about how and how often the collections were used; and the staff who coordinate Fellowship Programs helped me sort through decades of files to learn about scholarly activities. I had to fact check financial information with the Business Office and Human Resources and verify technical needs with IT.  Documents needed to be signed, letters of support and commitment needed to be  requested, and drafts needed to be written, circulated and edited.

When a proposal is funded, the first week  after hearing the news is so much fun you can almost forget how much work went into planning and writing. After getting award letter from Charles Henry at CLIR, I spend a lot of time sending out “Good News!” emails to all the people who helped write the grant and I received all sorts of congratulatory messages back.  There were after work drinks with coworkers and even some friends (who still don’t really understand how  “cataloging”  is different from “data entry”) suspect I might do something important and interesting.

It’s only after that  first project meeting that you really realize how easy the writing was compared to actually doing all the work that has been planned! This is especially true if the project, like ours,  is a “Pilot Project” that will introduce new workflows and staffing and requires us to develop training modules, devise new job descriptions and assemble an entire team before we can even start our production work.

Lucky for me, help is on the way! Our project officially begins on Monday, January 3rd and Eric Nygren, who will take on the key professional Cataloger role, will be ready to go. Eric is currently a Cataloging Librarian here at the Newberry and I have already worked with him on an ongoing project to catalog the Roger S. Baskes cartographic collection. In addition to his cataloging experience, Eric has the French language skills required to work with the pamphlets. Equally important, Eric has  some training and project management skills that we will be relying upon and developing in the upcoming years.

Welcome to the French Pamphlet Project, Eric!