Contextualizing the turbulent landscape that beset France during the Revolution of 1789 is this set of nine texts spanning the years 1783 to 1785 . In 1783, the French gastronome, Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, hosted a fourteen-course feast, each course comprised of five dishes, for seventeen guests. A few days later, his Philosophical Reflexions on Le Plaisir; by a Bachelor went on sale to great acclaim. It went through three editions, launching the career of the first gastronomical critic.
This collection also features works of the well-known authors, Voltaire and Mirabeau (their Les Soirées Philosophiques du Cuisinier de Roi de Prusse (1785) and Sur Les Actions de la Compagnie des Eaux de Paris (1785) respectively), Antoine de Rivarol’s De the universality of the French language (1784) on the origins and characteristics of the French language, and several texts criticizing the social, economic, and political situation in France during the reign of King Louis XVI (r. 1774-92).
An extremely rare allegorical work from 1784 rounds out the collection. Using the pen name Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Louis de Bourbon (Louis XVI’s brother) who became King Louis XVIII (r. 1814-24), composed Historical description of a symbolic monster, taken living on the shores of Lake Fagua, near Santa-Fé, by Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Count of Barcelona and Viceroy of the New World. Sent by a local merchant to a Parisian friend.
The Description features two engravings of monstrous harpies; this is timely as Courier de L’Europe reported about these creatures for the first time in the same year. Their discovery in Santa Fé, Peru at Lake Fagua resulted in numerous depictions. It is extremely rare for both male and female amphibious monsters to appear in this type of printed tract and when they do, the plates are generally lacking.
Information used in this post provided by Gerald W. Cloud, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Archives, Petaluma, CA.
Les Quatre élémens appeared around 1830 in Paris printed by Maulde and Renou. These four miniatures—a mere 3.25 x 2 inches—were designed to teach French children about the properties of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.
Each volume is a tricesimo-secondo, more commonly referred to as a “32mo”. In book production, these terms refer to a single sheet that has been folded to produce 32 leaves (64 pages). Each volume has glazed pastel paper boards (covers) in lavender, yellow, green, and pink. Each front cover is blindstamped with a decorative frame that surrounds a raised vignette representing the element featured in the volume.
Inside of each book are two wood engravings. One of the engravings in La Terre depicts a family fleeing an earthquake (below) and its other shows farmers harvesting crops.
Le Eau contains wood engravings of a fisherman (above) as well as a flood. In Le Feu, children see a volcano erupting (below) as well as a display of fireworks.
In the fourth book, Le Air, a mother and her children look upon a hot air balloon (above) and in the other wood engraving, the winds blows a man’s hat off.
Special Collections’ acquisition of this fine example of nineteenth-century science education in France was a collaboration with Professor Robert Goulding (Program of Liberal Studies, Director of the Reilly Center, and Director of History and Philosophy of Science). Professor Goulding states that this set is “probably one of the last publications to teach the old system of the elements as a scientific theory.”
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare and interesting two-volume work, Louis Basile Carre de Montgeron’s La verite des miracles operes a l’intercession de M. de Paris et autres appellans (1737-1741), which provides a view of the continuing Jansenist controversy in the 18th-century French church. Montgeron, a magistrate of the Parlement of Paris, experienced a miraculous conversion at the tomb of Francois of Paris, an ascetic Jansenist deacon, and thus became a champion of the Jansenist cause; in this work he defends the miracles which were claimed to have occurred near the tomb in the parish cemetery at Saint-Medard and the “Convulsionnaires”, pilgrims who experienced convulsions while visiting the site.
Although Jansenism, with its emphases on grace, predestination, miracles and what seemed to critics as denial of human free will, had been condemned by Pope Clement XI in the papal bull Unigenitus in 1713, this account by Montgeron shows its continuing influence through the first half of the century.
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a unique set of over eighty bound, handwritten letters, Traicte pour les tres devotes & tres vertueuses dames, les dames religieuses du Calvaire (MSE/EM 2833), from Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, also known as Pere Joseph, to the nuns of Calvaire between 1614 and 1638. Pere Joseph began his career as a soldier, serving at the Siege of Amiens in 1597, but in 1599 he renounced the world and entered the Capuchin priory of Orleans. He became a notable preacher and in 1606 helped Antoinette d’Orleans, a nun of Fontevrault, found the order of the Filles du Calvaire—the community to whom these letters are addressed.
Pere Joseph (1577-1638) is also known as a confidant of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), and was the original “eminence grise” (“grey eminence”), the French term for a powerful advisor who operates “behind the scenes.”
The story about a female pope—Pope Joan—circulated widely from the early thirteenth century and was generally accepted. Allegedly, a woman disguised herself as a male in order to attend university with her lover. She quickly ascended through the ecclesiastical hierarchy and was elected pope under the name John. She reigned for two and a half years before her true identity was revealed when she fell to the ground and gave birth.
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired an interesting and very rare example of a French Protestant writer refuting another Protestant author’s denial of the Pope Joan legend.
A newly acquired fragment (Frag. I. 33) provides a representative specimen of a historiated calendar from a fifteenth-century book of hours from France. The leaf contains the feast days of saints and other liturgical celebrations for the month of May. The entries are written in French using a double-graded system which invokes a deluxe presentation with a utilitarian element. Feasts written in gold are celebrated at a higher grade (e.g. as a solemnity) than the others. Those written in red and blue inks are celebrated at the same level, and the colors alternate purely for aesthetic purposes.
The outer border is decorated with black and gold rinceaux and contains acanthus leaves and other floral motifs. A similar piece border sprays from the initials KL in the upper inner margin (for Kalends, Latin for the first day of a month—hence our term ‘Calendar’).
The labors for the month of May are those of the nobility: courtly love and falconry. The lower margin features a miniature (below) which depicts both activities. The two lovers on horseback are engaged in courtship while on the hunt. The man holds a green branch, a symbol of fertility. A white hunting dog follows the couple closely on the ground, and the man’s falcon is perched on his left hand.
Though a product of biblioclasty from a period unknown, Frag. I. 33 still retains aspects which provide clues to its place of origin and location of use. For example, the Translation of the relics of St. Ouen celebrated on May 5 points towards the diocese of Rouen, which is located in the region of Upper Normandy. St. Ouen—also known as Audoin, Audoenus, or Dado—became bishop of Rouen in 641, and died in the last decades of the seventh century. A Gothic church bearing his name (the Basilica of St. Ouen) still stands in the city of Rouen.
Bibliography: David T. Gura, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College. Forthcoming 2016.
This summer I am spending my days in the Department of Special Collections at Notre Dame’s library, systematically making my way through 60-some of the most controversial-sounding titles of French books published during the French Revolution (of the 266 total). I am looking for clues about who read these books, what they liked, and when, as based on underlinings, marginalia, and any clues I can find on provenance; it is also interesting to learn about historical facets of book binding and illustration. The closest thing to being in a European library is being in a Rare Books room in the USA.
I am doing so in anticipation of the colloquium, Collecting the French Revolution, in Greoble and Vizille France, 23-25 September 2015. It will be fun to show how the collection of such materials ended up here, in the hinterlands of north-central Indiana!
So far, I have found some intriguing books. Two are interesting because of their ties to the university’s history: a 1794 book of revolutionary legislation is stamped “Treasure Room”–the former name of Special Collections–and a history of the Church dated 1791 is a living testimony to the ravages of fire and water damage which swept through the library in 1879. It was saved from the fire by a student, from whom it was returned years later.
The most intellectually vibrant example of marginalia has to be the 1795 copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s incendiary work of political theory, Du Contrat social–which contains notions such as general will and popular sovereignty–once owned by a certain Elizabeth Ann Seton. Inside the front cover one finds this inscription: “This copy is curious as an example of the new and foolish computation of time that the Revolutionists, out of hatred for everything Christian, wished to force upon the people. My grandmother (afterwards known as Mother Seton) used this volume at a period of her early married life when she was so unfortunate as to become somewhat enamored of the French infidel literature.” It is signed Robert Seton (a monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church and titular archbishop of Heliopolis, who donated it to Notre Dame). Better than any work by the philosopher Theodor Adorno or the intellectual historian Jonathan Israel, this one book holds within it a cautionary tale on the dialectics of modern thought, and the errors of Enlightenment philosophy , considered as a cause of the French Revolution. It also shines some light on the evolution in Mother Seton’s thinking from a youthful age; she would have been 21 years old in 1795, living the life of a wealthy New Yorker after marrying a successful merchant in the import trade two years earlier. Perhaps he imported new ideas along with the other stock from Europe!
The closest connection between Indiana and the French Revolution has to be the memoirs of Simon Bruté, born in Rennes in 1779, died in Vincennes, IN, in 1839 after serving as the first bishop of Vincennes. Its subtitle promises: “sketches describing his recollections of scenes connected with the French revolution.” I was initially wondering if the anti-revolutionary views of the clergy would be reflected in the collection and they are. But there are also an abundance of sources representing other political views. Along with several works by the infamous conspiracy theorist Abbé Barruel, there is a gorgeous edition of the Enlightenment’s most radical work of information sharing—the first Wikipedia one might say—L’Encyclopédie(the entire 17 volume set, dated 1765, with the supplement and the plates from later editions). Some say that L’Encyclopédie did more to promote a revolutionary consciousness than any other book of the time, by making trade secrets on industrial processes and artisanal practices accessible to all. This makes Notre Dame a great teaching library: students have a rich archive to explore in the search of learning how people thought long ago, why revolution broke out in 1789, and what it meant to diverse observers after the fact.
I could write more, but this will doubtless suffice to show you how interesting it can be connect a scholarly interest in revolutionary France with the history of the university and the Holy Cross order.