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French and Italian Studies
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Collections on Special Topics
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French and Italian Studies

Collections on Special Topics

These large collections and sets of microfilms were acquired from 1985 to 2006. Information on materials added in earlier years is available from the curator.


In 1987 the library acquired a major collection on Dante Alighieri, comprised of over 3,000 volumes and including nine fifteenth-century editions of the Commedia as well as a 1490 printing of the Convivio. Sixteenth-century editions form a significant part of the collection, including all major commentaries, early printing, and the rich texture of criticism evoked by the content and language of the poet’s work. The collection's critical studies extend into the mid twentieth century, adding modern editions with new commentary, key translations, commemorative publications, related political and cultural ephemera, and sources that highlight the extensive iconographic tradition associated with Dante. From Wendelin de Spira and Aldus Manutius to Giovanni Battista Bodoni, William Blake and Salvador Dali, the collection illustrates the variety of criticism and publishing ventures the poet inspired. While the collection’s individual titles are dispersed throughout the Green Library stacks and in the Department of Special Collections, a full list of the original contents may be seen in a typescript abbreviated list, with fuller descriptions of rare editions in the collector’s extensive notebooks and in his annotated copy of Giuliano Mambelli’s Gli annali delle edizioni dantesche (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1931). An exhibit in 1988, titled “Al divino dall’umano,” highlighted a large part of the Collection. On the cover of the exhibit checklist is a line drawing derived from the romanticized portrait of Dante found in the 1564 Cristoforo Landino edition of the Commedia, often called the “gran naso” edition. Information on the exhibition and samples of commemorative keepsakes can be obtained from the Curator or from the Department of Special Collections.

Italian Biography

This collection of 314 titles contains imprints from 1509 to 1892, and is largely composed of studies written soon after the death of the person whose life is described. Thus they are sources in themselves, reflecting contemporary views of both well-known individuals, such as the Aldus Manutius biography of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and of defined groups such as women religious and beate. The largest group of titles is from the 18th century, while the rest are distributed evenly over the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. Their subjects range from familiar names to lesser-known but significant individuals whose biographies offer insight into their time or associations. Twenty-two of the studies are on women, with a special emphasis on women who had spiritually influenced particular religious orders. A checklist of titles in the collection is available from the curator. This collection is complemented by strong collections in Italian biography both in the main Green Library collections and in the extensive resources provided by the microfiche set of the Archivio Biografico Italiano and through the Saur World Biographical Index on CD-ROM.

French Social Welfare

This collection of 161 titles is focused on charity, welfare, and social security in France from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. While a major part of the titles were published in the 19th century, a significant portion also falls within the early modern period, including contemporary biographies of philanthropists, plans for hospitals, poor relief programs, and theoretical treatises surveying the whole range of problems inherent in social welfare. Official publications are included as well as ephemeral material produced for private groups involved in public assistance. A checklist of titles is available from the curator.

French Courtesy Books

Building on already strong holdings in the Department of Special Collections, this set of 75 titles spans the 17th through the 19th centuries. The 18th-century section is the largest, containing frequently-cited titles that represent changes in the concept of civility. Though the focus reflects the collector’s interest in diplomacy, the range of works is broad, covering court life, royal entries, letter writing, and education of the young in the ways of socially proper savoir-vivre. A full checklist is available from the curator. Comparable works may also be found in the library’s collection of works published in the Bibliothèque bleue de Troyes.

French 18th-Century Judicial and Administrative Sources

Clustered largely during the reign of Louis XV, these sources offer an in-depth look at the concerns of both theorists and activists, reformers intent on ending abuses in government and in consolidating their own power in ways that foreshadow issues in contention during the Revolutionary period. The approximately 450 titles in the collection extend from 1750 to 1788, in three large segments: Parlements (226 numbered items dated 1750-1787), Assemblées provinciales (69 numbered items, 86 titles, dated from 1787-1788), and Miscellaneous source publications and studies (14 separately-catalogued treatises or studies, a set of 24 works on Chancellor Maupeou, and a bound-together set of 32 items on the Grand Conseil).

The collection’s legal documents and commentaries cover a broad range of topics, including taxation, church-state relations, trade regulations, judicial practices and powers, disputes with royal agents, and the consolidation of provincial assemblies. In order to facilitate use of a complex set of documents, most of them bound together in several sets, a guide and full listing of titles is available.

More recent acquisitions have been selected to complement this collection and the Gimon Collection of French Political Economy. Of notable interest are two bound manuscript collections compiled by successive premier commis des finances which detail the finances of the kingdom during the 18 th century:

  • French finances before the Revolution : a collection of printed and manuscript texts dealing with the years of Necker's terms in office, 1776-1781. Click for the table of contents for this collection . MSS Codex 0079

  • Villiers, Marc de, 1672-1762. Villiers, Jacques Etienne de. Mémoires sur la finance par rapport au gouvernement qu'en a M. le Controleur général, rédigés par Marc de Villiers Secrétaire du roi et premier Commis des finances, qui les a achevés en 1742 et y fait différentes additions jusqu'en 1754. Continués par Jacques Etienne de Villiers, Conseiller au Chatelet, et premier commis des finances, son fils jusqu'en 1758 . Detailed table of contents and index. 596 pages, covering the years 1726-1772.

The French Revolution Research Collection=Les archives de la Révolution Française

This microfiche set is included with major acquisitions because it is so closely related to recently-acquired large collections on early modern France. Published by Pergamon Press and G.K. Hall, in cooperation with the Bibliothèque nationale, The French Revolution Research Collection and Videodisk was edited by an international team of scholars who assembled an archive on the full spectrum of French history during this period. It encompassed all types of documents, among them memoirs, newspapers, pamphlets, posters, financial statements, church records, state decrees, and research guides. It took over five years to complete the set of approximately 12,000 titles in 12 large thematic sections and a related videodisk containing 38,000 images. General information on this collection is available on Socrates - MFICHE 1298, and all titles are listed in several volumes of guides in the Media-MTXT Reading Room and in the HAS Research Center (Lane Room). The various documents have now all been incorporated into the BnF's digital library, Gallica, but the guides remain useful for providing an overview of its contents. SOCRATES lists the collection’s indexes, and additional information is available from the curator.

Paris Commune Collection

The Paris Commune Collection was acquired in 2005. It consists of over one thousand titles dating from 1870 to the present. Provenance: Mr. Robert Le Quillec, a collector and bibliographer of the event. Included among the titles are personal and journalistic accounts of the Commune, memoirs, historical monographs, contemporary posters, journals and individual and bound articles. Paris Commune (1871), Franco-Prussian War, workers' rights, 19th century French socialism.

Individual items of this collection can be found searching SOCRATES by Subject: Paris Commune Collection.


Postcard collections in French and Italian Studies

Concentrated mainly in the late 19th century into the 1950s, the library’s collections of original postcards offer images that are useful in several fields of study, including the history of travel and of colonialism. These original collections, both in Green and Hoover, are supplemented by CD-ROM sets of postcards assembled by other institutions and collectors. The following descriptions do not represent a comprehensive list, but offer highlights of some collections, both original and in other form, along with a selection of a few books dealing with this topic.

Note that Hoover Institution holdings are not included, with the exception of one example of African postcards.

France and Italy (also Europe in general)

  • Morley, S. Griswold (Sylvanus Griswold), 1878-1970, collector.
    Postcard collection, 1890-1914.

    3 linear ft. M0872
    A scholar of the Romance languages, particularly Spanish, and professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at U.C. Berkeley. Morley traveled extensively in Europe before World War I, and it is from this era that his card collection is gleaned.
    Gift of James M. Morley, 1996.
    Indexes: Unpublished guide available.


  • Italy and area: postcard collection, ca. 1900-1958.
    1.5 linear ft. (ca. 1500 postcards) in two boxes. M1167
    Approximately 20% are postally used, many with stamps intact. The usual tourist destinations are well represented (Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Milan, Siena) but hundreds of out-of-the-way locations (e.g. Dobbico, Faenza, Albano, Nemi, etc.) are also present. Perhaps 20% depict interiors of points-of-interest (e.g. churches, castles, government buildings, museums, etc.); the rest are largely scenes in the countryside,
    ruins, architecture, etc. Perhaps less than 5% are issued after 1940.

    Our collection has been grouped into the following themes: ancient architecture, building facades, roads, panoramic views, plazas and courtyards, religious architecture (exteriors and interiors), religious art, postcards in series, colorized touristic photos, secular art, monuments and fountains, natural settings, and sent postcards.

Francophone Africa

  • Africa: postcard collection, ca. 1880-1950.
    3 albums as well as loose cards (ca. 1000 cards total). 2 linear ft. M0814
    Usually French photographers of French Africa. Three different accessions purchased from same dealer, although previous provenance is mixed. Some cards are written on; some not. Accession 1995-244 is in box 1, and consists of one album and 26 folders totaling some 500 cards. The photographers listed as added entries can all be found in this accession. Accession 2000-238 is in box 2 (Senegal, some 197 loose cards in folders) and in box 3 (album of ca. 300 cards of French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, North Africa, Madagasca, Aden, Somali Coast, Union of South Africa, Zanzibar, etc.). Accession 2000-276 is also in box 3 and consists of an album of ca. 300 cards that are largely sub-Saharan Africa, mostly from former French colonies and the Belgian Congo, but also some from North Africa, Union of South Africa, and a scattering of other British-controlled territories. Approximately 90% of these were issued before 1940.
    (Finding guide in progress)
  • African pictorial collection, 1889-1994.
    HV-ARCHIVE XX(4086127.1)
    95 envelopes, 1 ms. box, 1 album box, 6 slide boxes, 1 oversize folder.
    Photographs, postcards, and slides, depicting scenes of daily life, cultural and historical sites, prominent personalities, and works of art in various countries of Africa.


  • Vietnam : rebels and pirates (The Yen Thãe Rebellion).Collection of 19 vintage postcards / Pierre Dieulefils, photographe-editeur de cartes postale d'Indochine.

Postcards on CD-ROM

  • Images de France d’autrefois
    Computer data and program, France : MTS IM. Media, c1995. DC35 .5 .F736 1995 Also available online.
    Database of postcards from all regions of France around the turn of the 20th century. Cards depict rural, village and urban life. Database allows searching by locale, postal code, class and description. Images may be downloaded and processed with Photoshop or other image software.

Selected bibliography
(a few examples of a much larger number of titles related to postcard collections or postcards as representations)

  • Alloula, Malek. The Colonial Harem. Trans. By Myrna Godzich and Wlad Godzich Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
    HQ1791 .5 .A7613 1986
  • Attal, Robert. Juifs du maghreb: catalogue de la collection de cartes postales du fonds Gerard Lévy déposé à l’Institut Ben Zvi à Jérusalem. Jerusalem: Institut Ben Zvi, 1990. DS135 .A25 M37 1990
  • Phillips, Tom, 1937-The postcard century: 2000 cards and their messages. London : Thames & Hudson, 2000. NC1872 .P42 2000 F
  • Smalley, Martha Lund. Communications From the Field: Missionary Postcards from Africa. New Haven, Yale Divinity School Library, 1994. BV3500.C66 1994

Last modified: March 20, 2009

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