Tracing digitized pamphlets

This month work on new posts did not go as quickly as I had expected, but alas I did not find another subject to write about, until I suddenly found it. This week I made a few additions to the page at my own website on digital pamphlet collections, a page that I published only two months ago. In May 2013 Peter B. Hirtle of Cornell University Library kindly alerted me to the recently launched Trial Pamphlets Collection of Cornell Law Library. In 2011 I had written about pamphlets in two posts, one focusing on pamphlets, another focusing on trials. It seemed a useful effort to put my badly ordered examples of digital collections into some more permanent form.

My overview presents collections ordered by country and where possible in chronological order. For my list I have reluctantly excluded commercial projects accessible mostly only at subscribing libraries, and I try to focus on collections devoted exclusively to pamphlets, except when pamphlets form a substantial and well-defined part of larger digital libraries. Of course the large-scale subscribers’ only projects are most valuable, but you can easily spot them at the websites of many university libraries and national libraries. Any substantial addition to my overview is most welcome. At some universities access to digitized pamphlets is only possible for students and staff.

An example of a French pamphlet

An example of a French pamphlet – image Center for Research Libraries

As I added some collections to my own overview I luckily came across the French Pamphlet Project (FPP) – hosted at the University of Florida – for creating an online overview of digitized French pamphlets with the aim also of eventually creating a portal to digitized French pamphlets worldwide. At this moment you can already get access at French Pamphlets to nearly 500 digitized items. By the way, the case of France makes immediately the interplay clear between law and politics. It brings you to the role of the parlements, the provincial courts. Since 2013 the NEH supports with a one-year grant the project of CIFNAL, the branch for French collections of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) (Chicago) with both American and European participating libraries. As for now the website looks a bit empty, apart from the early version of the portal, but it is accompanied by a Facebook page which brings you to more information, in particularly on the participating libraries and the number of pamphlets in their collections. CRL has experience with both projects concerning France, for example the Bibliothèque Bleue, the cheap books series published at Troyes and elsewhere in eighteenth-century France, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean, and also with pamphlets, in particular Chinese pamphlets and pamphlets and periodicals of the French revolution of 1848.

I tried to get access to the digitized pamphlets of the Bibliothèque de Toulouse mentioned at the Facebook information page of the FFP, and specifically at Rosalis, bibliothèque numérique de Toulouse, but I failed to find the 150 pamphlets indicated by the French Pamphlet Project. Only four pamphlets is meagre indeed. In the digital library Tolosana of the Université de Toulouse I could find at least 33 digitized pamphlets. The FPP invites institutions not yet contacted to get in touch with the project team.

I will not bother you here with other difficulties in getting access to pamphlets in some of the participating institutions, but surely the lack of a search for formats at Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, is a major hindrance in tracking pamphlets. An example of a pamphlet collection easily showing its riches is the one at Harvard College Library: a simple search for “France” yielded already nearly 300 results. The University of Maryland has not yet an online searchable database for its digitized pamphlets, but apart from an online inventory of the 5500 pamphlets you can use a preset search using WorldCat to find at least a set of 500 digitized French pamphlets. The University of Florida Libraries deserve our thanks for developing a nutshell guide to the collections of the institutions cooperating in the French Pamphlet Project.

Logo of The Newberry Library, Chicago

One of the most promising collections which will eventually be accessible, too, at the FPP is the major collection of French pamphlets – well over 36,000 in all – at the Newberry Library, Chicago. The project for cataloguing and digitizing this collection started in 2009. It is accompanied by a fine blog. From January 28 to April 13, 2013 the Newberry Library held the exhibition Politics, Piety and Poison: French Political Pamphlets, 1600-1800, presenting its French pamphlets, mirrored in a splendid virtual exhibition. Among the pamphlet collections of the Newberry Library are the Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection (530 items) and also two collections with a Dutch connection, the Jansenist collection of 700 pamphlets concerning the Old-Catholic Church, and some 800 Dutch pamphlets, mainly from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

Not only the French Revolution…

The French Pamphlet Project wisely restricts itself to collections with mainly pamphlets concerning the French Revolution. It should therefore not be a surprise to find no mentioning at all of the mazarinades, a particular subgenre of French pamphlets aiming at the politics of cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661). Here I wrote about mazarinades in 2012. A team of scholars in Tokyo and Nagoya has created the website Recherches internationales sur les Mazarinades with an overview of libraries in France and worldwide with holdings containing mazarinades. After registration with the Japanese project you get access to a large number of digitized mazarinades, but it is difficult to find much digitized materials outside their project. In my post I provided a number of links to digital collections. At Gallica and at Europeana I found nearly 400 digitized mazarinades.

The vivid debates and the intense communication about law, society and politics in France recorded in the mazarinades are a wonderful resource for our knowledge of the perception of the French Ancien Régime. In my view the wealth of the mazarinades provides to some extent the background for the FPP. The mazarinades set in a way the scene and at least some of the limits of the French pamphlet genre. The very word mazarinades truly almost hides the fact that you look at pamphlets!

In the section for France on my own page for digital pamphlet collection not only pamphlets for the French revolutionary period appear. I also mention Pamphlets.fr: Le répertoire des grand pamphlets, a project with mainly pamphlets by famous French people from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and The Siege and Commune of Paris 1870-1871, a project of Northwestern University for pamphlets, newspapers and other documents concerning another particular period in French history.

Interactions between websites, blogs and social media

One of the lessons I learned in dealing with digitized pamphlets is the importance of interaction between a website and a blog or other social media. When I started collecting information about relevant digital collections in 2011 I confess to have searched sometimes a bit at random. I did not just follow the beaten paths, but I ventured outside them.

Choosing what to include and what to exclude is sometimes really difficult. This week I visited by chance a digital collection of the Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online, Revolution, Rätegremien und Räterepublik in Bayern, 1918/19, a collection concerning the revolutionary period in Bavaria immediately after the First World War. Pamphlets appear in a section of this digital collection. Now is it wise to put this item in an overview of digital pamphlets, or should one present it in an overview of digital libraries? As for now I have chosen this last option and included them on my page with digital libraries, but it might be better to copy this item also to my page for digital pamphlets. This example is just one illustration of the problems in creating a useful and sensibly organized overview with a clear focus. Obviously you cannot rely on just one overview, and luckily you can often find other attempts as well, both in print as online. Let’s wish the French Pamphlet Project good luck!

The examples of the French Pamphlet Project, with both a portal site and a Facebook page, and the pamphlet project at the Newberry Library with on its main site a general introduction and guide to the online catalogs and a blog presenting interesting examples and stories from the project, show graphically some ways of combining the strengths of a website, often more static but also more durable, and the peculiar benefits of social media, the wide and quick dissemination of news for anyone interested. Speaking for myself, I am very happy to maintain a website and a blog on legal history. It is one of my hopes that visitors of the website will also look at this blog, and vice versa, because the two really depend on each other, for the benefit of the visitors.

Some postcripts

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has some 2,600 mazarinades in its holdings, one of the largest collections anywhere to be found. The library announced in 2014 at its special website Folgerpedia the full cataloguing and digital presentation of this great collection.

Digitized collections of pamphlets published during the First World War can conveniently be searched using the overview I created at my blog Digital1418. When you follow this link you will find all items tagged Pamphlets, and not just links for each collection with a short indication of contents, but also a compact description of its background and accessibility.

Gallica does indeed contain many hundreds digitized pamphlets, but it remains difficult to catch them with one general search action. In 2017 the Newberry Library could add many items to its digital collection of French pamphlets at the Internet Archive, with 30,000 items surely one of the largest projects I know about.

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2 thoughts on “Tracing digitized pamphlets

    1. rechtsgeschiedenis Post author

      Thanks for your comment! In fact I had already included this link at WorldCat in the brief sentence of my post about the digitized French pamphlets at the University of Maryland. I often wonder whether there are more examples of such useful preset searches at WorldCat…

      Reply

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