68 results in English
Fragment from Major Alfred Dreyfus's Memoirs
Alfred Dreyfus (1859−1935) was a French artillery officer of Jewish background who was wrongly accused and convicted of treason and espionage in 1894. As such, he became the main protagonist in one of the most famous political scandals of the beginning of the 20th century. In this voice recording of a fragment of his memoirs, made in 1912 at the Sorbonne by the Archives de la parole (Voice archives), Dreyfus recounts the events of July 20, 1906. Eight days after he was exonerated by the Cour de cassation (Court ...
Map of the Old World, 1752
Didier Robert de Vaugondy (1723−86) was from a line of famous geographers and cartographers. He was the great-grandson of Nicolas Sanson (1600−1667) and the son of Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688−1766), with whom he created a universal atlas of 108 maps. This atlas, which was first published in 1757, included the world map of 1752 presented here. The efforts by the great explorers notwithstanding, the world as drawn by the cartographers of this period remained very incomplete, especially with regards to the American and Australian continents. In ...
A Protester during the Riots of February 1848
This daguerreotype portrait of a protester was made at the end of the riots of February 1848 in Paris. The unidentified photographer was most likely inexperienced in the technique, as the text on the flag, “République Liberté Egalité Fraternité 22, 23, 24 février” (Republic Liberty Equality Brotherhood, 22, 23, 24 February), is reversed. A professional photographer would have used the mirror system invented earlier to correct the image in the dark room. Beyond this misstep, however, the viewer can sense the photographer’s intense desire to immortalize the face of ...
Merovingian Bees
The tomb of Childéric, king of the Salian Franks from 457 to 481 and the father of Clovis, was discovered by chance in 1653 by construction workers near the church of Saint-Brice in Tournai, in present-day Belgium. The treasure found was given to Archduke Leopold William of Habsburg (1614−62), governor of the southern Netherlands (at that time under Spanish rule). The archduke asked medical doctor and antique specialist Jean-Jacques Chifflet to write a study of the find, which was published in Antwerp in 1655 under the title Anastasis Childerici ...
Piece of the Charlemagne Chess Set: The Pawn
The famous chess set called the Jeu d'échec de Charlemagne (Charlemagne’s chess set) was once part of the treasury of the Basilica of Saint-Denis. It was made near Salerno, Italy, at the end of the 11th century. It was long thought to have belonged to Charlemagne, who was said to have received it as a gift from Caliph Harun al-Rashid. In fact, this cannot have been the case, because the game of chess was only introduced to the Western world by the Arabs two centuries after Charlemagne’s ...
La Fontaine's Fables
Jean de la Fontaine (1621−95) was the author of 12 books containing a total of 243 fables in verse, published between 1668 and 1694. Inspired by fable writers of classical antiquity, and more specifically by Aesop’s Fables, Lafontaine created anthropomorphic animals. Each tale tells a vivid story, which always ends with a moral. Examples include “La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure” (Might makes right) in “The wolf and the lamb;” “On a souvent besoin d’un plus petit que soi” (A mouse may be of ...
Alphabet of the Five Parts of the World
This abecedarium, published in Paris in 1863, is made up of color lithographs, purportedly illustrating the people of the different countries of the world. Each letter is associated with a country, which is represented by individuals in traditional dress, usually a couple, who are supposed to reflect the place and its population. These representations, somewhat romantic, are more theatrical than anthropologically accurate. Many are very approximate, sometimes even unrealistic or inaccurate. For the letter Q, for example, “Quebec” is represented by a woman in oriental dress, and a minaret and ...
Three Tales
While in financial trouble at the end of the 1870s, Gustave Flaubert (1821−80) wrote a series of shorter works of fiction before going back to his difficult task of writing Bouvard et Pécuchet. Un Cœur simple (A simple heart) was published as a series in the Moniteur universel newspaper in April 1877, while La Légende de Saint-Julien l'Hospitalier (The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller) and Hérodias (Herodias) were published the same month in Le Bien public newspaper. These stories were then compiled into one book by publisher ...
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot ou le Chevalier de la charrette (Lancelot, the knight of the cart) is the third Arthurian novel written by Chrétien de Troyes (circa 1135−circa 1181). It was composed between 1176 and 1181 at the request of Marie de Champagne. This novel in octosyllabic verses is part of the Holy Grail cycle, the four volumes of which are kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France under shelf-marks FR 113 to FR 116. This copy of the novel was commissioned by book lover Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours and ...
The Life and Miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi
Bonaventure de Bagnoregio (circa 1217−74), the great Franciscan theologian also known as “the Seraphic Doctor,” began writing Legenda major sancti Francisci (The life and miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi) in 1260. He compiled documents and testimonies from former companions of Saint Francis who were still alive. This manuscript in small format is an anonymous translation of this work from Latin into French. The name of its recipient is unknown, but it is known that she was a private individual, most likely a lady from high society, as folio ...
Book of Hours for Use in Paris: The Hours of René of Anjou
This book of hours was written around 1435−36 in the workshop of the Rohan Master in Paris for René of Anjou (1409−80), the second son of Louis II of Anjou. The portraits of Louis II and René are to be found on folios 61 and 81 respectively, along with René’s coat of arms and emblems. These are death wearing a crown, the eagle holding the Cross of Lorraine (in reference to his first wife, Isabelle of Lorraine, from whom he inherited the duchy in 1431), and the ...
A Compilation of Works by Pseudo-Oppian, Xenophon, and Manuel Philes
This manuscript is a compilation of several works in Greek by three different authors. Ange Vergèce (1505−69), a calligrapher to the king during the reigns of François I, Henri II, and Charles IX, copied the entirety of the text in Paris in 1554. Included in the manuscript are writings by the third-century Syrian writer known as Pseudo-Oppian, who styled himself after Oppian (an author from Cilicia who slightly predated him), including a poem on hunting; Cynegeticus (On hunting), by the classical historian Xenophon (circa 430−circa 355 BC); and ...
Hernani
Hernani, ou l’Honneur castillan is a play in five acts by Victor Hugo (1802−85), which opened at the Comédie-Française in February 1830. Set during the Spanish Renaissance, it recounts the rivalries between a young man named Charles Quint, a bandit named Hernani, and the uncle of the lady whose love they all vie for, Dona Sol. Beyond the themes of honor, love, and history, this melodrama is best known for its departure from conventional classical tragedies (in particular the unities of  place, time, and action) and it is ...
The Book of the Love-Smitten Heart
Written in 1457, Le livre du Coeur d'amour épris (The book of the love-smitten heart) is an allegorical romance by King René of Anjou (1409−80). The text in verse and prose recounts the quest for love of the knight Heart who, in a dream, leaves with Desire in search of his lady, Mercy. This amorous journey combines the knight’s studies and his personal memories. The tone is that of a disenchanted man at the end of his life, for whom courtly love and desire both amount to ...
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen Adopted by the National Assembly during its Sessions on August 20, 21, 25 and 26, 1789, and Approved by the King
On June 17, 1789, the members of Third Estate (those members of the pre-revolutionary French parliament, the Estates-General, who were not from the First Estate, the nobility, or the Second Estate, the clergy) gathered and declared themselves the National Assembly of France. Alarmed at this radical development, King Louis XVI (1754−93) decided to end their deliberations and barred access to the room in Versailles where they had been meeting. Over the next several days, most members of the clergy in the Estates-General and a significant number of the nobility ...
The Overseas Expeditions by the French Against the Turks and Other Saracens and Moors Overseas
Les Passages faiz oultre mer par les François contre les Turcqs et autres Sarrazins et Mores oultre marins (The overseas expeditions by the French against the Turks and other Saracens and Moors overseas), commonly known as Passages d'outremer (The expeditions to outremer), is an illuminated manuscript made in France around 1472−75. It includes 66 miniatures, most likely painted by Jean Colombe (active 1463−98), an illuminator from Bourges. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Pope Pius II pleaded for the liberation of the Christian holy places in ...
Book of Hours: Images of the Life of Christ and the Saints
This manuscript, a book of hours from the late 13th century, is comprised of 87 full-page illuminations illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the lives of saints. The book is a Cistercian church calendar in Latin. The other text to be found in the work is a short caption under each image. When it was first created, the codex included 90 illuminations. A masterpiece of gothic illumination, the manuscript shows how important religious images were for the devotions of its owner. This most likely was a wealthy lay ...
Passover Haggadah
This manuscript is a Haggadah. This Hebrew term is derived from a Hebraic root meaning a tale, particularly an edifying tale or story. Jewish law commands its followers to retell each year, from generation to generation, how the Jews fled Egypt as well as the miracles performed by God at the time. The Haggadah is a collection of chosen texts from the Bible and the Talmud that facilitates the celebration of the family liturgy on the first two nights of Passover during holiday meals. This manuscript is embellished with 76 ...
Cameo with Portrait of Louis XIV
This cameo, in a red-tinged onyx in three layers mounted on gold and colored enamel, represents King Louis XIV as a teenager. The triumphant crown on his head is a direct reference to ancient Rome and the Roman generals. This exaltation of royal power foretells the military success of the future king. During the years of his personal reign (1661−1715), Louis XIV continually pushed out the borders of the kingdom of France to the north and east, reaching the city of Lille and several other major towns as well ...
Portraits of Louis the Great at Various Ages
Shown here is a bronze engraving on which ten medallions are attached, each of which contains, behind a glass plate, a portrait of Louis XIV (the Sun King) at a different stage of his life. The portraits are painted in grey tones on paper glued onto metal, and they depict the king at five, ten, 16, 22, 28, 34, 40, 46, 54 and 59 years of age. The frame is crowned by the sun above a globe adorned with three lily flowers surrounded by the zodiac, with the inscription micat ...
Portraits of the Royal Family
Shown here is a bronze engraving, on which ten miniatures are attached, each of which contains the portrait of a different individual who was a member of or associated with the French royal family. The portraits are painted in grey tones on parchment (portrait of Louis XIV) or directly on copper. The miniatures, by Antoine Benoist (1632−1717), painter and wax sculptor of the king, represent (from bottom to top): Louis XIII at 40 years of age, inspired by Jean Varin’s portrait, made in 1704; Queen Marie-Thérèse at 22 ...
Cameo with a Portrait Bust of Charlemagne
This small cameo is engraved with a portrait bust of Charlemagne, from his right side, with the inscription “Carolus Magnus” (Charles the Great). The long-haired emperor, with his imposing beard, is wearing a crown with a fleur-de-lis and Renaissance-inspired armor with arabesque motifs. This cameo is part of a collection of 63 portraits of the kings of France, from legendary King Pharamond to Louis XIII. The cameo is from one of two series of portraits of kings of France on shell that were made in the 17th century, one under ...
Cameo with a Portrait Bust of Francis I
This small cameo is engraved with a portrait bust of Francis I, from his right side, presented like a Roman emperor, wearing a crown of laurels, body armor, and a paludamentum (emperor’s cloak). Francis I was king of France from 1515 to his death in 1547. The cameo is part of a collection of 63 portraits of the kings of France, all identifiable by their captions, from legendary King Pharamond to Louis XIII. The collection is held in the Museum of Coins, Medals, and Antiques at the National Library ...
Map of France’s Post Offices
Drawn by Alexis-Hubert Jaillot (circa 1632−1712) in 1690, the Carte particulière des postes de France (Particular map of the post offices of France) was preceded by the work of geographer Nicolas Sanson (1600–67), including his 1632 Carte géographique des Postes qui traversent la France (Geographical map of post offices throughout France). The evolution of the mapping of the postal network sheds light on various territorial choices stemming from political or economic requirements. This postal network was the first exchange system managed by the French monarchy within the boundaries ...
The Princess of Montpensier
This first edition of La Princesse de Montpensier (The Princess of Montpensier) by Madame de La Fayette was published anonymously in 1662. Taking place during the religious wars of the previous century, it is the story of the entangled loves of the princess, her husband the prince, the duke of Guise whom she had loved before her arranged marriage, and his friend, the count of Chabannes. The count, in love with the princess who does not care for him, sacrifices his honor to save that of his lady, before being ...
“Amadis of Gaul.” Book One
Amadis de Gaule (Amadis of Gaul) is a chivalric romance novel by Rodriguez de Montalvo, who based it on stories that had been circulating on the Iberian Peninsula since the 1360s. The original, in Spanish, was published in 1508. Nicolas Herberay des Essars translated the novel into French, with his own additions and adaptations. Book one of his work was first published in 1540 in this large-format version. The story narrates the adventures of Amadis, the archetype of the knight. The novel was an enormous success, which in part had ...
Fairy Tales from Past Times
Contes du temps passé (Fairy tales from past times) by Charles Perrault (1628–1703) were published in parts between 1691 and 1697. Perrault polished the texts, reworking the various legends he collected while staying true to the original storylines. His picturesque storytelling reflected in part the popular culture of the time: he purposefully used archaic terms, archetypes (such as the king, the ogre, the cruel stepmother), and a style reminiscent of oral storytelling (with formulas such as “once upon a time” and such repetitions as “Anna my sister Anna”). His ...
Gaspard of the Night: Fantasies in the Manner of Rembrandt and Callot
Louis-Jacques Napoléon Bertrand (also known by the more poetic pen name of Aloysius) is the author of only one book, Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the night). Born in 1807, he moved to Paris in 1833 and became an acquaintance of authors Victor Hugo and Charles Nodier. Poor and very ill, Bertrand lived in and out of hospitals from 1838 until his death from tuberculosis in 1841. His friend David d’Angers was the only person to accompany his casket to his final resting place. Bertrand reworked and refined ...
The Confession of a Child of the Century
La Confession d'un enfant du siècle (Confession of a child of the century) is a novel written by the French poet Alfred de Musset (1810–57) when he was 26 years old. It depicts the love affair of a young man named Octave, who, betrayed by his mistress, becomes cynical and drowns his sorrows in alcohol and debauchery. He then falls in love with Brigitte, but his jealous tendencies, his desire to “touch misfortune, otherwise called truth,” put a strain on their relationship. So he decides to let go ...
Codex Vergara
Codex Vergara is an Aztec cadastral document, drawn up in 1539 by the Spanish conquerors of Mexico, on behalf of the king of Spain, in order to facilitate the collection of taxes from the native population. The document records the landholdings of the Aztec villages of Calcantloxiuco, Topotitlan, Patlachiuca, Teocatitla, and Texcalticpac. These villages and their locations and sizes are represented on the document. The first seven pages show the genealogy of the families of landowners and their connections to the various plots of land. In the upper-left corner of ...
Codex of Mexican History from 1221 to 1594
This manuscript is an 18th-century copy of an original that has since been lost. It recounts the history of Mexico from 1221 to 1594. Among other events, it mentions the mythical discovery of Tenochtitlan (forerunner of Mexico City) by Cuauhcohuatl and the death of Emperor Moctezuma (also seen as Montezuma). The document is in Nahuatl, the main language of the indigenous population of Mexico. The copy was made in Mexico on paper imported from Europe, most likely by Father José Antonio Pichardo (1748−1812), who created many other copies of ...
Codex Azcatitlan
This manuscript, known as the Codex Azcatitlan, most likely dates from only a few years after the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. It recounts the history of the Aztecs (also known as the Mexica), including their migration to Tenochtitlan (forerunner of present-day Mexico City) from Aztlán, the ancient or mythical birthplace of Aztec civilization. The codex depicts the succession of Aztec rulers, the arrival of Spanish troops headed by Hernán Cortés, and the introduction of Christianity. Of all the known manuscripts recounting Aztec history, the Codex Azcatitlan is probably ...
Codex Ixtlilxochitl
Codex Ixtlilxochitl is a ritual calendar that presents all the main ceremonies and holidays that were celebrated at the great teocalli, the terraced pyramid of Tenochtitlan (forerunner of present-day Mexico City) during the Mexican year. The Aztec calendar consisted of two systems. This codex presents the Xiuhpohualli (the first, or solar, calendar) of 365 days, divided into 18 months of 20 days, plus an additional period of five empty or unlucky days at the end of the year, called the Nemontemi. The manuscript begins with the first month of the ...
Matrícula de Huexotzinco
Matrícula de Huexotzinco is a census of the villages in the province of Huexotzinco (also seen as Huejotzingo). This very large document originally was comprised of more than 440 folios, six of which have since been lost. The census is divided into three parts: a text in Spanish introducing the census, the pictorial census, and an analysis in Spanish of the results. Each part starts with a page containing the glyph of the village name, followed by a registry of all married men, the elderly, widows and widowers, the sick ...
Aubin Tonalamatl
The Aubin Tonalamatl is a pictorial codex that reads from top to bottom and from right to left. It originally included another two folios that have since been lost. The Tonalamatl (bark paper [or book] of the days) was used by Aztec priests in a divination ritual. Tonalli means “day” and amatl refers to paper made from the inner bark of trees of the genus Ficus. The work contains a religious calendar of 260 days, the Tonalpohualli, which was used as a ritual and daily devotional for the celebration of ...
Codex Mexicanus
Codex Mexicanus is an oblong-shaped manuscript that contains calendrical and astrological information, some of which is related to the practice of medicine. The manuscript shows signs of wear, probably because this small-format book would almost always have been carried in the pocket of its owner. The first eight pages contain a series of circles within which letters of the Latin alphabet have been inscribed, most likely designating the days of the month. Images of Catholic saints and apostles also are included. The book includes a history of the Aztecs, or ...
Carmen. Opera in Four Acts, Based on the Short Story by Prosper Mérimée
Although Carmen is today one of the world’s most popular operas, it opened at the Paris Comic Opera on March 3, 1875, to a mixed reception, much to the disappointment of its composer, Georges Bizet (1838-75). Bizet was one of the leaders of a new generation of French composers, and Carmen was the pinnacle of his career. The libretto, adapted from Prosper Mérimée’s short story by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, seemed scandalous to many who attended the opera. Célestine Galli-Marié (1840-1906), who played the role of Carmen ...
Franc à cheval, John II
The franc à cheval was ordered issued on December 5, 1360 to finance the ransom of King John II (born 1319; reigned, 1350–64), who had been taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War. The ransom totaled a vast 3 million écus, and the fact that the coin was used to secure the release of the king gave rise to the name by which it was known: franc, meaning free. The value of the coin was set at one livre ...
Newton's Cenotaph
“Sublime spirit! Vast and profound genius! Divine being! Accept the homage of my weak talents... Oh, Newton!” With these words, French architect and designer Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728–99) dedicated his design for an imaginary cenotaph (empty tomb) in honor of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). Like many intellectuals of his day, Boullée was fascinated by Newtonian physics. His design illustrates perfectly the general characteristics of his work and that of the architecture of the end of the 18th century: large simple masses free from any superfluous decoration ...
Marseillaise
Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836), a French army engineer, wrote the words and music to the “Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France, in the course of a single night in April 1792. He intended the song to be used as a marching song by the French Army as it entered the Rhineland, following the outbreak of war between France and Austria and Russia. This recording, made circa 1898-1900, is one of the earliest recordings made of the song. In 1893, Henri Lioret (1848-1938), a watchmaker by trade, developed a conical ...
The Game of France
Pierre Duval (1619-83) was a nephew of the great French geographer Nicolas Sanson (1600-67) who rose to become “geographer to the king” in his own right. In the 1660s and 1670s he published a large number of atlases and geographic works. Duval was the first in France to conceive of geographical games that aimed to inform and instruct while providing entertainment. Jeu de France (The game of France) is a chutes-and-ladders game made up of 63 squares, each representing a province, except for the last, which contains a map of ...
Geographical Distribution of the Population in France, or Population Density by Commune
Victor Turquan (1857-19?) headed the French Statistical Bureau from 1887 to 1896. He wrote numerous works on economic and demographic statistics, which included maps with graded coloration and iso-lines (lines connecting points with equal values). For Turquan, “the study of population distribution within the territory of a country belongs as much to geography as to statistics.” In an era in which color rarely was used even in statistical charts, he created this map of the population distribution in France using isopleths (lines surrounding zones with similar features) and “pitches of ...