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Digital version of French pamphlets exhibition is online


J'attends la tête de l'assassin Louis XVI (Case Wing DC137.08 .F73 v. 3 no. 5)

The digital version of the Newberry Library‘s recent exhibition, Politics, Piety, and Poison: French Pamphlets, 1600-1800, is available online. This exhibition features four major collections of French pamphlets processed as part of our cataloging project. For those who were unable to see the exhibition during its run at the Library and for those who would like to pay another visit, enjoy the show!


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.

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.

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.

Researching the late French Revolution

Last week Judith A. Miller, Associate Professor of History at Emory University and currently the Audrey Lumsden-Kouvel Fellow at the Newberry Library, presented a colloquium at the Newberry on her book project on the late French Revolution.  Judith examined events of the French Revolution after the Reign of Terror, drawing on numerous textual and visual sources, including printed speeches and paintings of the era, to highlight themes of stoicism and other philosophical currents permeating the rhetoric of this politically tumultuous time.

In addition to presenting her research, Judith also described her experiences as a researcher working with the Newberry’s collections, most notably the French Revolution Collection (FRC).  This collection contains many pamphlets that are not available or accessible elsewhere.  Judith described her excitement over discovering resources that she never knew existed and how these new discoveries necessarily affected her research.

Particularly gratifying for our project team was her gratitude for the accuracy and thorough subject analysis in our catalog records.  While digitization of printed texts dramatically improves access to these materials, supplying subject terms is still an essential step to facilitating access to research materials, whether or not digitization is possible.  As a cataloger, I often wonder whether the items I catalog are going to find their way into the hands of researchers or whether the catalog records I create will simply slip into the information ether.  I am so pleased that our team’s efforts have proved so fruitful for Judith and other researchers.  Judith and I have had several opportunities to collaborate during her fellowship: I have offered her assistance with strategies for searching the Newberry’s online catalog while she has provided suggestions for enhancing our catalog records.  Her fellowship could not have happened at a better time!

This cataloging project has underscored for us that efficiency and thoroughness in cataloging are not mutually exclusive.  Since early 2010, we have cataloged 20,373 pamphlets (17,553 in FRC alone) with full catalog records and thorough subject analysis thanks to a team of dedicated catalogers, many of whom had no prior library work experience.  Among these thousands of primary source documents are speeches, histories, satires, songs, commentaries, treatises, art, and ephemera ready to inspire and shape the work of many researchers to come.

Loose bindings and link stitches

In contrast to many of the red-rot-covered, hefty bibles and religious texts that I cart up to the Conservation Lab at the Newberry on a weekly basis, the French Revolution Collection pamphlets seem small, fragile, and (in some cases) clean. However, upon investigating further, Director of Conservation Services Giselle Simon revealed to me that these pieces of ephemera often contain surprises, and require delicate and tiny conservation treatments.

With pieces as small as these pamphlets, some containing fewer than two pages, Giselle says that the Con Lab is careful not to add any bulk. The pamphlets are housed in their original cases—the notorious yellow portfolios with the tiny French red, white, and blue ribbon on the spine. While these cases are both so very French-looking and functional, they are not the standard archival boxes used elsewhere in the library, and their size prohibits the Con Lab staff from adding to the volume of the pamphlets.

As Giselle showed me the collection’s progress in the lab, she pointed out a treatment that was nearly invisible to my naked (albeit vision-impaired) eye.

For pamphlets with loose bindings (or no bindings), the Con Lab team uses a tiny “link stitch” to hold these pages together, without obtrusively altering the artifacts.  The link stitch is an unsupported sewing that looks like a small chain. That is, the stitches connect together, not to the pamphlet itself. In most cases, the lab uses existing binding holes.


Beyond the link stitch and the protective covering of Japanese tissue, Giselle pointed out that the beauty and the challenge of the FRC pamphlet project is that these small pieces of the past were preserved and housed in vastly different ways. Some pamphlets were bound in leather like books, and the residue of leather (which is acidic) continues to eat away at the paper. Others were never bound, and arrived at the Newberry in scrap paper binders’ covers, which in many cases look like brown paper bags or muddy, discolored paper. The tell-tale sign of a pamphlet that was bound only temporarily by the printer is a centered, double pin prick where the artifact was “stab-sewn.”

As the Con Lab team works to remove traces of leather, to bind the unbound titles, and to mend the pages of damaged pamphlets, I have been working on a less delicate procedure: cleaning the often filthy bound pamphlet collections of the Saint-Sulpice Collection. These collections contain pamphlets of many different sizes, allowing dirt to sneak between the pages over the many decades that they have been together. My role has been simple: I use vulcanized rubber sponges to lightly wipe away the dirt from the pages of these collections. In sometimes one or two volumes, these sponges can go from being white to being completely saturated with dirt, dust, and soot, to the point where several passers-by have asked me why I have chocolate on my desk. The sponges are less delicious than they look, but they’re part of a Newberry-wide initiative to make works like the French pamphlets accessible and clean for our readers and researchers.


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.

Ithier Aubier, convulsionnaire extraordinaire

Frontispiece of Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 v. 5 no. 15

Among the volumes of bound pamphlets that comprise the Saint-Sulpice Collection, I discovered a diminutive pamphlet, just 15 cm tall, entitled, Lettre contenant le récit de la conversion, & les principales vertus, tant intérieures qu’extérieures, d’un pieux solitaire, mort le vingt quatre juillet, mil sept cens cinquante-quatre (Case folio BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 v. 5 no. 15).  The pieux solitaire in question is convulsionnaire Ithier Aubier (1727-1754), a native of the French village of Saint-Père-sur-Loire.

Appropriately, the pamphlet was anonymously published in Ypres, seat of Bishop Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638), the father of Jansenism.  The convulsionnaire movement, whose adherents exhibited convulsions and later engaged in the beating of one another as a form of spiritual release, is an 18th-century religious movement strongly associated with Jansenism.  The movement began after the death of François de Pâris (1690-1727), a popular Parisian Jansenist and ascetic who engaged in self-flagellation.  Pilgrims journeyed to his tomb in the cemetery of Saint-Médard in the years following his death, many convulsing and claiming that they had been miraculously cured of a variety of illnesses.

After the cemetery closed in 1732, the movement continued to evolve.  Showing an increasing contempt for the human body, convulsionnaires engaged in acts of sadomasochism, including cutting and violently beating one another during convulsions.  The story of Ithier Aubier’s conversion to the sect of convulsionnaires vividly describes such acts of violent spiritual release.  After witnessing the convulsions of a man identified only as Frère T., Aubier claims that his heart started to beat violently and reversed position.  Despite Aubier’s fear of injury, Frère T. then struck him in the chest 300 times, claiming the beating was spiritually necessary:

Pendant qu’il parloit encore, le F.T. entra dans l’état surnaturel extèrieurement.  Il parút se trouver mal ce qui surprit beaucoup ce nouveau F. qui ne pensoit pas qu’il en eût.  Il lui témoigna beaucoup de tendresse, mais il fút bien plus étonné lorsque le F. lui prit le main, & lui posa sur son côté droit, pour y sentir un battement de cœur violent, qui ne battoit plus du côté gauche.  Il lui dit que c’étoit la figure du renversement de son cœur qui aimoit tout autre objet que celui pour lequel il avoit été crée … Ensuite se fit donner 300 coups de buche sur la poitrine, malgré les oppositions du nouveau F. qui avoit peur que cela ne le blessa, le F.T. lui dit à ce sujet que s’étoit la figure des coups qu’il falloit que Dieu porte à son cœur pour en briser la dûreté, & en même-tems la preuve du surnaturel de tout ce qu’il venoit de voir & d’entendre. (p. 35-36)

The brothers present at Aubier’s conversion gave him a new name, Frère Romuald, after Saint Romuald, a 10th-century ascetic hermit and founder of the Camaldolese order.  Similarly to Aubier, this saint had indulged in the sins and pleasures of a secular life as a young man before becoming a monk at the age of 20.  Frère Romuald lived just until the age of 27, dying in the Hôtel-Dieu of Paris after living as an ascetic among the rocky lands outside of Paris.

This pamphlet complements the Newberry Library‘s collections on Jansenism, particularly a collection acquired in the 1970s from seminary libraries of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands.  Of interest to scholars of the convulsionnaire movement, Jansenism, and 18th-century French politics are several collections of manuscript letters written by or about French convulsionnaires (VAULT Case MS 5082VAULT Case MS 3A 17, VAULT Case MS 3A 18, and VAULT Case MS 3A 19).  See Wikipedia’s article on the convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard for a thoroughly researched introduction to the convulsionnaire movement with an excellent bibliography.

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.

Of calendars and public education, counterfeit bills and beekeeping

Assignat from the French Revolution Collection (FRC) - (not yet cataloged)

The Newberry Library presents an informal colloquium every Wednesday afternoon to give staff, fellows, visiting scholars, and friends of the library an opportunity to present their work on virtually any topic.  Last week, some of the project staff presented a colloquium on discoveries they’ve made while cataloging the Library’s French Revolution Collection (FRC) of pamphlets.  Dana, Kate T., Kate S., and David each briefly discussed a particular theme that is well represented in FRC, drawing from selected examples in the collection.  Dana discussed the impetus for creating the French Republican Calendar; Kate T. led us on the slow road to public education reform in Revolutionary-era France; Kate S. demonstrated how to identify counterfeit assignats; and David provided examples of various means of increasing the domestic production of goods during times of scarcity in late 18th-century France, with a particular focus on new methods of beekeeping.

Without a doubt I knew that many audience members would be drawn to the varied and historically significant subject matter of the presentation.  But to my cataloger’s delight, many staff members and scholars in the audience were just as interested in the behind-the-scenes cataloging and processing of the collection as in the subject matter of the pamphlets.  One scholar asked how to locate the FRC pamphlets in the Library’s online catalog.  (Hint: Search FRC as a keyword.)  A staff member inquired whether it was possible to find pamphlets that included maps.  This presentation underscored my feeling that researchers are as much interested in the “process” of a collection as the “product.”