The Digitization Centre would like to share some exciting news: a rare collection of original pamphlets from the French Revolution is now available on the UBC Open Collections!
Total of 114 items were digitized from the UBC Library’s French Revolution Collection which includes pamphlets, plays and documents from between 1787 and 1799, a period of radical political and societal transformation in France. This collection was digitized with the support of UBC’s Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies, to support advancement of research in 17th and 18th century French studies.
Brief history of the collection
The original collection of UBC Library’s French Revolutionary pamphlets were first acquired in the 1970s as a collection from Martinus Nijhoff publishing in the Hague. An inventory and a reference guide to this collection was prepared by Maria Horvath (Krisztinkovich), then Senior Library Assistant UBC Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division, which was published in 1973 (Image 2).
In the summer of 2017, thanks to a partnership between Rare Books and Special Collections (RSBC) led by Librarian Chelsea Shriver and the head of the UBC Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies (FHIS), associate professor Joël Castonguay-Bélanger, there has been efforts to expand the original collection of pamphlets. With funds from a former professor’s endowment, RBSC has purchased more items to form a significant corpus. [i] From the initial 111 items acquired over 50 years ago, there are currently 391 items in the RSBC holdings. [ii]
The use of Pamphlets during the French Revolution
During the French Revolution, pamphlets played a central role in communicating ideas to the public. They disseminated subversive political beliefs, circulated propaganda, and spread revolutionary ideas to a broad public in Paris and throughout France. In the texts, writers often critiqued the existing social order and raised concerns over the government, the King, the nobility and the clergy.[iii] The main characteristics of the pamphlets, such as their portability and the inexpensiveness made them accessible and an ideal media form to share with the public.
Some items in this collection include handwritten annotations like seen in Images 6 & 7, which are quite interesting to look at!
Some of the notable pieces in the collection include La semaine mémorable (The Week to Remember), written in July 1789, a few days after the Storming of the Bastille; and Constitution de la République Française: proposée au peuple français par la Convention nationale (Constitution of the French Republic: Proposed to the French People by the National Convention), a constitutional document written in 1795 heralding the notion that all human beings have the right to liberty, equality, safety, and ownership, regardless of their origin of birth.[iv]
Out of the 391 items in the UBC Library French Revolution Collection, 277 items are yet to be digitized. They can be viewed at the Rare Books and Special Collections department of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.
Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed learning about our French Revolution Collection!
[i] Peet, L. (2018, December 4). UBC Library Partners with French Department on Revolution Pamphlet Collection. Library Journal.
[ii] The complete catalogue list of the UBC Library French Revolution Collection
[iii] Whitaker, J. (2013, December 18) French Pamphlet Project. Johns Hopkins, The Sheridan Libraries & University Museum Blog.(Access on March 16, 2023)
Centre for European Studies. (n.d). Original French Revolution documents now available at UBC. Faculty of Arts. https://ces.ubc.ca/original-french-revolution-documents-are-available-at-ubc/
Chisick, H. (1993) The pamphlet literature of the French revolution: An overview, History of European Ideas, Volume 17, Issues 2–3, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/0191-6599(93)90289-3
Christie, J., Turgeon-Solis, M., & Castonguay-Bélanger, J. (2019). French Revolution Collection. [Exhibition catalogue]. UBC Rare Books and Special Collection. UBC Library. https://library-rbsc-2017.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2019/02/Catalogue-UBC-Library-French-Revolution-Exhibit-FINAL.pdf
UBC Library. French Language and Literature https://guides.library.ubc.ca/french/frenchbooks
Vescera, Z. (2018, November 29). “Vive la revolution!” at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. The Ubyssey. (Access on March 16, 2023) https://www.ubyssey.ca/culture/ubc-rare-books-acquires-french-revolution-pamphlets/