Tag Archives: dictionaries

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.

Royalist snarkily defines the Révolution

Sorting out the context-specific meaning of terms employed in very particular ways by the pamphlet authors can be challenging for modern readers and catalogers alike. Apparently it was a source of confusion for readers contemporary to the pamphlets as well. I found a pamphlet whose author expressed a certain bewilderment about the “en vogue” terms being bandied about at the time, and he wrote a dictionary to explain these terms.  Granted, he’s writing from a strong royalist point of view, so the definitions are not always useful from a factual or truly explicative perspective, but most of the entries are intended to be quite humorous.  The entries on patriotisme and patriote are notable for their satire:

Case FRC 15500

Case FRC 15500

Patriote. Animal bipède qui fait peur aux honnêtes gens timides, et qui a peur des honnêtes gens courageux. [Patriot. Bipedal animal that frightens timid honnêtes gens, and who is afraid of courageous honnêtes gens.]

Patriotisme.  … Les grammairiens disent, que c’est le courage de sacrifier son intérêt particulier à sa patrie.  Les historiens qui se proposent d’écrire l’histoire de la révolution, disent, que c’est maintenant le courage de sacrifier sa patrie à son intérêt particulier. J’aime sincérement ma patrie; ce qui le prouve, c’est que je n’ai pas encore un seul acte de patriotisme à me reprocher. [Patriotism. ... The grammarians say that it's the courage to sacrifice one's own interest to his country. The historians who propose to write the history of the Revolution say that it is now the courage to sacrifice one's country to his own interest. I sincerely love my country; what that proves is that I still don't have a single act of patriotism for which to reproach myself.]

Buée, Adrien Quentin. Nouveau dictionnaire, pour servir à l’intelligence des termes mis en vogue par la Révolution. Paris: Crapart, 1792, p. 95 (Case FRC 15500).

Dictionnaires d’autrefois

It’s not really fair to say I discovered the Dictionnaires d’autrefois page (on the ARTFL Project website) while working on this project because I relied heavily on it while doing my academic work, but it is definitely true that I have come to value it in a whole new way.  The Dictionnaires d’autrefois page includes 8 French dictionaries from 4 centuries:  Jean Nicot’s Thresor de la langue française (1606), Jean-François Féraud’s Dictionaire critique de la langue française (1787-1788), Émile Littré’s Dictionnaire de la langue française (1872-1877) and the Dictionnaire de L’Académie française 1st (1694), 4th (1762), 5th (1798), 6th (1835), and 8th (1932-5) editions.  This webpage allows you to search for one term in all eight dictionaries, though for this project, I mostly use the 1762 and 1798 editions of Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. Consulting a dictionary contemporary to the material we are cataloging is essential because it helps me pin down the definitions of words as they were used during the French Revolution.


Initially, the most difficult aspect of working on the project was dealing with the highly technical legal language in most of the pamphlets I worked with at the time. I ended up spending more time with English-language reference sources, trying to figure out what the legalese I was finding meant. Ironically, now that I’ve spent more time with the project, the situation has reversed. The amount of research that I had to do on subjects like emphyteusis (the term the helpful French-English dictionary gave for the French word emphytéose and that I had to look in three English language dictionaries to find. I have since discovered that the secret to figuring out these things is to look in the French language dictionaries like the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française which provide much more detailed definitions than bilingual dictionaries) has ended up paying off, and now the pamphlets published by the legislature on property law, public finance, and any number of other obscure legal topics, are the easiest part of the day. The other pamphlets, the political rants, denunciations, justifications and satires that represent the majority of what I have been working with recently now consume most of my time. They aren’t any more difficult than they were during the beginning of the project, but while cataloging the government documents has gotten easier (especially since the same relatively small group of topics seemed to be the focus of most of the revolutionary legislation) cataloging the other (generally more interesting and exciting) pamphlets continues to take the same amount of time, simply because of how disorganized these pamphlets are. The fact that they are frequently unfocused, give false publishers, locations, authors, and dates (if they include any of that information in the first place) and frequently cover minor political events that are given generic names (for example, “les événemens du octobre dernier”) without any indication of the relative importance, or even the opinion of the author doesn’t encourage swift cataloging either.

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