Contact: Claude Potts
Scope of Collection
The Library has historically collected 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 scholarship in a wide array of related fields and topics across the humanities and social sciences — 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 decades, the collection has expanded its scope to include materials published in and about the Francophone world, including sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Caribbean, Québec, Southeast Asia, and other French-speaking territories of Europe.
The French Collection principally serves faculty, students and scholars in the Department of French and affiliated with the Institute of European Studies' French Studies Program. The collection also supports a broad range of research and teaching in distinct departments such as Anthropology, Classics, Comparative Literature, Economics, English, Film & Media Studies, Gender & Women's Studies, Geography, History, Linguistics, Near Eastern Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Rhetoric, Slavic Languages & Literatures, Sociology, Theater, Dance & Performance as well as academic programs in African Studies, Canadian Studies, East Asian Studies, International & Area Studies, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies, Political Economy, Religious Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, South Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies.
Besides established programs in Medieval Studies and Folklore, the French collection also supports new cross-disciplinary Designated Emphases PhD programs in Critical Theory, Film & Media Studies, Gender & Women’s Studies, and Renaissance & Early Modern Studies that attract the nation’s foremost graduate students.
Coverage for the Middle Ages through the 20th century is outstanding, particularly for the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Romance philology holdings are among the strongest in the U.S. as well as holdings in early modern and modern French philosophy as well as critical theory. For publications in the new millenium, holdings are mostly research-level but less comprehensive in certain areas due to declining budgets and deliberate cooperative collecting efforts with Stanford University Libraries According to these agreements, Berkeley will take primary collection responsibility for regional histories of the Southwest (Midi-Pyrénées, Aquitaine, Languedoc); Franche-Compté, Bourgogne, Champagne, and Corsica. Berkeley has also agreed to take the lead on certain themes and disciplines such as citizenship/national boundaries, social and cultural change, French linguistics, etc.
Berkeley’s holdings for Francophone West Africa as wells as the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the strongest in the United States. Unique imprints from Europe and Southeast Asia pertaining to the former colonial territories of French Indochina are the richest on the West Coast.
In 1966, the Bancroft Library acquired a number of rare medieval French manuscripts which were among the remnants of the Sir Thomas Phillipps' collection. Many of these have been partially digitized and can be viewed in the Digital Scriptorium. 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 wrote: "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 ninety livrets, or chapbooks, that pertain to the Bibliothèque Bleue publishing enterprise that spanned the 17th through 19th centuries. See: The Old, the Rare and the Trashy. Many of these scarce texts have been digitized and added to a digital corpus of related texts hosted by ARTFL at the University of Chicago.
Original works by bookmaking innovators Nicolas Jenson, Geoffroy Tory, Robert and Henri Estienne, Claude Garamond, Pierre-Simon Fournier, and Firmin Didot can be found in the Bancroft, as a result of the Library’s longstanding interests in documenting the history of books, printing, and typography.
Primary Languages and Formats
Digital and print for French, Latin, Occitan, and other regional languages.
- Bancroft (for special collections)
- Art History/Classics
- Graduate Theological Union
- Library of French Thought in French Department
- Media Resources Center
- South/Southeast Asian
For information about research tools, library guides, and related pages, see French Studies.