French History and Literature

The Newberry has a strong collection related to European History and Literature. For France, the French language, and the French diaspora, notable strengths lie in the political and social history of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Other strengths include French in the Americas, publishing history, Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts in French and Latin produced in France (e.g. Books of Hours), and the French paleography digital resource.

To find titles in the collection relating to French History and Literature, you can search by Title, Author, Keyword, or Subject in our catalog using the following headings:


France Politics and Government

French Language

French Literature

French Literature—History and Criticism

Many of our French history and literature resources are in French. To view these resources, you can limit results by language using the drop-down selection in “Advanced Search” or by using the facets on the left side of the results page.

For those items listed as on the 3rd floor Reference shelves, you might also consider looking at the call numbers around those books, since there should be materials dealing with similar topics nearby. All items with a “Ref” call number can be viewed on the open shelves on the 3rd floor. General and Special Collections items must be retrieved by staff.

Bowditch, John. A selected bibliography of modern French history 1600 to the present. Ann Arbor, Mich. : Xerox University Microfilms, 1974. Lower case f 39 .112

France, Peter. The new Oxford companion to literature in French. Oxford ; New York: Clarendon Press, 1995. Ref PQ 41 .N49 1995

Martin, André and Gérard Walter. Catalogue de l’histoire de la révolution française. Paris : Éditions des Bibliothèques nationales, 1936-1969. Ref Z2179 .P27. This is annotated to include Newberry holdings.

Osburn, Charles B. Research and reference guide to French studies. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1968. Ref Z2175.A2 O8

Saenger, Paul. A catalogue of the pre-1500 western manuscript books at the Newberry Library. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Ref Z6621 .N66 S23 1989b

Items that have a “Ref” call number can be viewed on the open shelves on the 3rd floor. Similar books can be found by searching in the online catalog by "Subject" for the following:

France History Bibliography

French literature Bibliography

French literature Dictionaries

French literature History and criticism

Bibliographie annuelle de l’histoire de France du cinquième siècle à 1945. Paris : Éditions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique. Ref Z2176 .B5

Dalhousie French Studies. Halifax, N.S. : Department of French, Dalhousie University, 1979-. Location: General Collections 2nd Floor, additional issues online through JSTOR. Call Number: PQ1 .D35

Essays in French Literature. Nedlands, Western Australia : University of Western Australia Press, [1964]-2007. Location: General Collections 2nd Floor. Call Number: Y 7607 .274

French Historical Studies. [Baton Rouge, La., etc.] : Society for French Historical Studies. Location: General Collections 2nd Floor. Call Number: F 39 .3255

Yale French Studies. [New Haven, Conn. : Yale French Studies], 1948-. Location: General Collections 2nd Floor, additional issues online through JSTOR. Call Number: Y 7607 .96

McIlwain, Charles H., and John U. Nef. 17th Century French Political Pamphlets. The Newberry Library Bulletin 3, no. 2 (April 1953): 50-56. Chicago : Newberry Library, 1944-1979. Call Number: Ref Z881 .C5246

Pargellis, Stanley. Notes and Suggestions, Materials for French History in the Newberry Library. French Historical Studies 1.1 (1958): 95-99. Call number: F 39 .3255 and photocopy in checklist area.

Wilson, Bernard E. “French Literature at the Newberry Library.” Report to the Bibliographical Committee, Unpublished, 1970. Call number: photocopy in the Guide to the Collections, shelved in Reference.

Books of Hours and Pre-1500 Manuscripts

The Newberry has significant holdings in illuminated religious manuscripts from France, in French and Latin. More can be found using the following subject headings:

  • Books of hours France
  • Illuminated Manuscripts France
  • Manuscripts French


The Newberry’s holdings relating to the French in the Americas range from the accounts of the sixteenth-century explorers to marriage records for Quebec from the mid-twentieth century. These collections are complemented by strong holdings in French history and culture, which provide further opportunity for research in the transatlantic context.


The Newberry’s John M. Wing Collection contains a unique assemblage of French laws concerning regulation of the press from 1513-1829. There are about 1,200 items, all individually cataloged. Most of the items are royal and parliamentary proclamations.


The French Revolution Collection consists of more than 30,000 pamphlets and more than 23,000 issues of 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810. While the majority of the pamphlets were printed in Paris by the Imprimerie nationale, there are also significant numbers of provincial publishers and fictitious imprints.

Digitization of the French Revolution Collection was begun in 2016, funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. Digitized pamphlets are available on the Internet Archive website.


In the 1970s, the Newberry acquired a Jansenist collection of over 700 works from seminary libraries of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands. The works span the 17th through 18th centuries; the majority were published from 1680 onward. Pamphlets may be found in this collection.

This collection can be searched using the printed catalog for the Newberry Jansenist collection, available in the checklist area on the 2nd floor and in the Special Collections Reading Room. The Newberry owns additional Jansenist materials not listed in this checklist; please consult the online catalog by searching the subject heading “Jansenists”.


Items in this collection have been cataloged individually. To see the collection-level catalog record, select the “Search by Author” option and paste or type in “Joel Rich Collection of Marcel Proust”.


A collection of about 530 pamphlets on the imprisonment, trial and execution of Louis XVI, published between August 10, 1792 and Jan. 21, 1793. The pamphlets were collected at the time of their publication and contain evidence against the king, defense of the king, public opinion on both sides of the issue, and moral and political reflections on judging and executing a king.


This collection of pamphlets dates from 1574 to 1849 and deal with the history of the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, and especially with the relations between the Netherlands and England. Pamphlets published during the late 18th century include many in French discussing revolutionary political concepts and events, which underscore the influence of the French Revolution on the politics of all of Europe.


Chronicles French printing and publishing activities from 1650-1850 with both Parisian and rare provincial publishers are represented among some 700 book prospectuses in pamphlet form. Most of these prospectuses are French. A print inventory is of this collection is available. In addition, many catalogs of book dealers and auctions are in pamphlet form and can be searched for using the subject heading "Booksellers' catalogs".


This collection, purchased in 2003, is largely, but not exclusively, French. At the beginning of the 19th century, the religious order of Saint-Sulpice in Paris assembled and bound this collection of 2,566 biographical pamphlets. While most of the pamphlets are in French, the collection does include numerous Latin publications. It also includes first editions of short works by Budé, Pascal, and Molière.

The Modern Manuscript and Ephemera holdings are strongest in American materials, primarily Chicago and the Midwest. To find modern-manuscript materials and ephemera related to French History and Literature, you can search by keyword or keyword phrase. A checklist of Post-1500 French manuscripts at the Newberry Library is also available. Some other collections of interest are highlighted below:

Collection of calligraphic specimens of French writing masters, 17th-18th cent.
Specimens by 39 writing masters (3 anonymous items), including J.B. Alais de Beaulieu, Nicolas Du Val, Guillaume-Montfort, Louis Michel, A.F. Roland Sebastien royllet, Saintomer, Simonin, and L.P. Vallain. Many items not dated. Call number: Wing MS folio ZW 11 .186

Joel Rich collection of Marcel Proust letters, 1918-1971
Handwritten or typewritten letters from Samuel Beckett to Marilyn Meeske, Madeleine Lemaire to Mr. Dandekar, George D. Painter to Mark A. Everett, and Marcel Proust to his friend Robert. Call number: Modern MS 32

Pierre Monteux Music Manuscripts
Musical pieces written by Monteux early in his musical career, including solo piano, vocal, chamber, orchestral works, and opera. Call number: Modern MS Monteux

Spencer Napoleonica collection, 1756-1975
Autograph documents and prints relating to Napoleon I and his contemporaries. The documents consist largely of letters to and from Napoleon and his military and political associates, letters between Napoleon and members of his family and among family members, and a few autograph documents of artistic and literary notables of the Napoleonic era. Call number: Vault Modern MS Spencer


Most of the databases at the Newberry are subscription databases; therefore, access is available to registered readers only within the library building. Those listed below are subscription databases.

JSTOR: Provides full-text access to an archive of major scholarly journals. Contains complete runs from their first volumes up through approximately five years ago.

ProjectMuse: Provides full-text access to recent volumes of scholarly journals in the arts and humanities published by Johns Hopkins University Press and journals of other university presses.

For a comprehensive list of all our databases, visit our Databases webpage.

Digital Resources

French Renaissance Paleography
This paleography website presents French manuscripts written between 1300 and 1700, with tools for deciphering them and learning about their social, cultural, and institutional settings. French Renaissance Paleography is a collaborative digital project between the Newberry, the University of Toronto Libraries, the Center for Digital Humanities at Saint Louis University, and ITER: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Translating French History
Translating French History, 1500-1850 highlights pamphlet content for non-French-speaking users with images of pamphlet pages as well as translations of those pages. Translating French Pamphlets was funded, in part, by a major grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources with the support of generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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