80 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 ...
Paul and Virginia
In 1788, Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737−1814) published a rather short novel, Paul et Virginie (Paul and Virginia), which recounts the youth of two children, who are raised as brother and sister by their mothers on the edge of society, on the island of Mauritius (at that time a French colony known as Île de France). The children’s paradise unravels as they enter their teenage years and their awakening sensuality taints their innocent affection. Virginia is sent to Europe by her mother, who seeks to keep her away ...
Captain Fracasse
Capitaine Fracasse (Captain Fracasse) is a novel by Théophile Gautier (1811−72), the title character of which is a brash, loudmouthed swaggerer. The novel recounts the adventures of the baron of Sigognac during the reign of Louis XIII, a penniless nobleman who, taking on the role of the braggart Matamore, leaves his decaying castle to join a traveling theatrical troupe out of love for a young actress. The novel includes all the main characteristics of the typical roman de cape et d’épée (swashbuckling romance) made popular by Walter Scott ...
Short Stories from Geneva
Rodolphe Töpffer (1799−1846) gained world renown for his stories that for the first time mixed written narration with illustrations, earning him the unofficial title of  “father of the comic strip” with his books Voyages du docteur Festus (Doctor Festus's travels), Histoire de M. Cryptogame (Mr. Cryptogame's story), and Les Amours de M. Vieux-Bois (The story of Mr. Wooden Head). Töpffer also was famous for his Voyages en zigzag (Zigzag travels) and Nouveaux voyages en zigzag (New zigzag travels), accounts of his walking trips in Switzerland. The rest ...
The Procurator of Judea
Anatole France, born Jacques Anatole François Thibault (1844−1924), was one of the most famous writers of his time. A journalist, prolific author, and member of the Académie Française from 1896, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1921, but since that time he has been somewhat under-recognized. Written in a very classical style but using irony, his Le Procurateur de Judée (The procurator of Judea) is a short tale intended to provoke reflections on history, memory, and our understanding of the world. It is the story of ...
Against the Grain
First published in 1884, À rebours (Against the grain) by the French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848−1907) reflects the author’s departure from the romanticism of Émile Zola and his adoption of a new Symbolist aestheticism. In the absence of a plot, the narrative focuses on the main character, Jean des Esseintes, an eccentric, reclusive aesthete and antihero who rejects modernity and cultivates a taste for decadence. After leading an eventful and exuberant life, des Esseintes becomes weary of society and retreats to a suburban home in Fontenay-aux-Roses, where he ...
At the Foot of Mount Sinai
On January 13, 1898, Georges Clemenceau, politician, journalist, and cofounder and owner of the newspaper L’Aurore (The dawn), published in his newspaper the famous manifesto J’accuse (I accuse) by Émile Zola, defending Captain Alfred Dreyfus against charges of treason and espionage motivated by anti-Semitism. Only three months later, Clemenceau published Au Pied du Sinaï (At the foot of Mount Sinai). The work includes a collection of portraits of Jewish people from Galicia that might easily be characterized as anti-Semitic. Clemenceau was, however, a staunch defender of Dreyfus and ...
From the Earth to the Moon, Directly in 97 Hours and 20 Minutes
In 1862 French publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel (1814−86) founded the youth magazine Le Magasin d'éducation et de récréation (Education and entertainment magazine), and asked Jules Verne (1828−1905) to contribute to it by writing novels. Hetzel later created a collection entitled Les Voyages extraordinaires (Extraordinary journeys) dedicated solely to Verne’s works, the goal of which was to “sum up the knowledge … accumulated by modern science … in its own attractive and picturesque and colorful format.” The collection featured De la terre à la lune (From the earth to the ...
Count d'Orgel’s Ball
“I was in a blazing hurry, like someone who is going to die young and thus works twice as hard.” This quote by one of Raymond Radiguet’s characters could easily be applied to the author himself. In three years, Radiguet (1903−23) published three articles as well as poems and novels, among which Le Diable au corps (The devil in the flesh) was a best seller and became a classic. Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel (Count d'Orgel’s ball), presented here, was Radiguet’s second novel. Written ...
The Magic Skin
La Comédie humaine (The human comedy) is the promethean project, conceived by the great French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799−1850), which sought to represent contemporary society and man in their entirety through novels and short stories. Many characters appear in several of the stories that make up the larger endeavor, and events and situations echo each other from one story to the next. Presented here is La Peau de Chagrin (The magic skin), the second novel in the cycle, in the original edition published by Gosselin in 1831. It ...
Carrot Top
Poil de carotte (Carrot Top) is a collection of short scenes that recount the daily life of a young redheaded boy whose mother continually humiliates and teases him, to which his other family members remain indifferent. This maternal hostility, the source of which the author does not explain, sometimes causes Carrot Top to be cruel (especially towards animals), as he cannot express his desire for love and recognition and lives a life of loneliness and bitterness. The tone of the novel is short, sharp, and sometimes ironic. There is no ...
The Passions of the Soul
Les Passions de l'âme (The passions of the soul) is a treatise on moral philosophy, published in Paris in 1649, in which the philosopher René Descartes (1596−1650) theorizes on “the passions,” or what contemporary readers would call emotions. Descartes argues that passions are a matter of nature and therefore of the body. They are not inherently bad for the spirit, as long as they are kept in check by morals and free will, which are capable of evaluating the passions. While Descartes continues in a long tradition of ...
The Hunting Book
Gaston III (1331−91), count of Foix and viscount of Béarn, also known as Gaston Phoebus because of his shiny blond hair, wrote his book on hunting between 1387 and 1389 and dedicated it to Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, also an avid hunter. Written in French, the treatise is in five parts, which successively describe the habits of several types of game animals; the maintenance of hunting dogs; deer hunting; hunting other types of game; and finally the less-noble methods of hunting involving traps. The first printed edition ...
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 ...