Health and Safety

French Revolution Collection at the Newberry Library – and a Chance to Hone your Translation Skills!

27 Dec 2017 history

Did you know that a piece of French history sits just steps from the Alliance? Since the early 1960’s, our neighbor, The Newberry Library, has been home to a massive collection of over 38,000 pamphlets published during the French Revolution era. That amounts to over half a million pages! The collection contains everything from issues of well-known Parisian periodicals to more provincial publications, and even court proceedings and music.

Reading and cataloging all of these publications may seem daunting, but it’s not a task that the Newberry is going to shy away from. With the help of a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources, The Newberry was able to begin to digitize all of their collection last year. Once digitized, the collection could them become freely available online for scholarly use all around the world. As the pamphlets span nearly thirty years of French history and cover a wide range of topics, they are valuable to a wide range of scholarly fields. Studying the pamphlets can aid developments in everything from legal and cultural studies to notions of citizenship and the history of printing.

Looking through the pamphlets is like stepping back in time. The earliest pamphlets shed light on both the rising resistance to the monarchy and its continued support from those faithful to the crown. There is a whole collection dedicated to the trial and execution of Louis XVI, and, last but not least, over fifteen years’ worth of pamphlets that demonstrate the tumult of the Revolution’s aftermath. It is truly fascinating to watch the birth of a new government unfold before your eyes. You can look through the pamphlets that have already been digitized here, and follow along with the Newberry’s progress on their blog here.

Yet an obvious barrier to allowing these pamphlets to become accessible still remains –the language! The Newberry’s next mission is to work on translating the pamphlets from French to English. They have already begun to partner with some Chicago-area professors and their students to begin translating a select group of pamphlets, and you can see an example of such a translation here. There is still much left to do, however, and this where the Alliance can step in with your help!

Feel like you want to take a shot at translating one of these pamphlets? We are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with The Newberry next spring to organize a translate-athon to assist their efforts. The event will take place on May 10th, 2018, so mark your calendars and brush up on your translating skills (you can practice by combing through the collection online). We hope to see you in May, and stay tuned for more exciting updates on translation here at the Alliance.

Bonnes recherches et traductions !