Contact: Claude Potts
Scope of Collection
The Library collects extensively in all areas of French literature and history, including literary criticism, philology, and philosophy from the early medieval period to the present. Building on long-term strengths in traditional, historically based divisions of French literature and history, the collection also supports new scholarship in a wide array of related fields and topics - from literary history to philosophy, to social and cultural theory, to psychoanalysis, the study of gender and sexuality, historiography, visual arts and film, music, popular culture, and politics. In recent years, the collection has expanded its scope to include materials published in and about the Francophone world, including, but not limited to sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Caribbean, Québec, and other French-speaking territories of Europe.
The French Collection principally serves faculty, students and scholars in the Department of French, the Institute for European Studies' French Studies Program, and the Medieval Studies Program. In addition (and of no less importance), the collection also supports a broad range of research and teaching in distinct departments such as Classics, Comparative Literature, Economics, Gender and Women's Studies, History, Linguistics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology as well as academic programs in African Studies, Film Studies, International Business, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Religious Studies, Poltical Economy of Industrial Societies (PEIS), Religious Studies, and Romance Languages and Literatures.
Coverage for the Middle Ages to mid-19th century is outstanding, particularly for the Enlightenment and French Revolution (see below). Romance philology holdings are among the strongest in the U.S. as well as holdings in French philosophy and psychology. Twentieth century holdings are research-level but less focused for literature and history.
In 1966, the Bancroft Library acquired a number of rare medieval French manuscripts which were among the remnants of the Sir Thomas Phillipps' collection. Highlights include twelfth-century romances by Chrétien de Troyes, the five romances of the Arthurian Vulgate cycle, and a manuscript of Garin le Loherain. Rare books curator Tony Bliss writes: "Focusing on Diderot's Encylopédie, its publication and the controversies surrounding the philosophes, the European Enlightenment collection is particularly strong, especially for the second half of the eighteenth century." Acquired in 1963, the French Revolution Collection comprises more than 10,000 pamphlets and numerous other sources from the late 1780s through the end of the French Revolutionary era make it one of the richest collections outside of Paris' Bibliothèque Nationale.
Purchased in 1951, the French Theatre Collection consists of over 3000 plays from the 18th and 19th centuries. Other collections include the Cerf Library (belles lettres, history, classics, travel), Leon Clerbois Collection (large 19th c. collection chiefly from Belgium and France), Ledru-Rollin Collection (19th c. affiches revolutionaires), Loomis Collection (Franco-German literary relations from 17th and 18th c.), Menezes Gift (belles lettres), Monnet Travel Collection and the Pioche Library (linguistics and French literature).
Also noteworthy are more than sixty 18th c. literary chapbooks that pertain to the Bibliothèque Bleue. See: The Old, the Rare and the Trashy.
Primary Languages and Formats
Digital and print for French and some Creole, Occitan/Provençal and Latin.
- Bancroft (for special collections)
- Art History/Classics
- Graduate Theological Union
- Library of French Thought (in French Department)
- Media Resources Center
- CED Visual Resources Center
- East Asian
- Environmental Design
- Ethnic Studies
- Pacific Film Archive
- South/Southeast Asian (for the Philippines, East Timor, Goa, Damão, etc.)
- Robbins Collection (Boalt)
For information about research tools, library guides, and related pages, see French.