The Project
The Pamphlets

N.B. You can mouseover &/or click for the footnotes,although
on Macintosh computers the text rearranges itself.


The Project
This is an ongoing effort co-sponsored by Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Library(MARBL) and the Louis H. Beck Center for Electronic Collections and Services, Woodruff Library, Emory University.

The goal of this project was to digitize a coherent number of the 3000 texts contained in the French Revolution Pamphlet Collection held by Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Library. It is hoped that the digital collection, which will eventually display 89 literary and satirical pamphlets, will highlight what had been a nearly invisible library resource and will facilitate scholarly access to archival texts that have not been widely reproduced.

The technical aspects of the digitization process involve scanning the original documents using high-end digital photography, converting them to text format documents with optical-character-reading software, proofreading, and finally, sgml mark-up in order to provide a web-based interface which allows full document retrieval as well as extensive cross-text search capabilities.

For further information, please see the Tagging Guidelines for this project and the Production Path Handbook.


The Pamphlets
For more detailed information about the entire French Revolution Pamphlet Collection, please see the Research Guide.

J’ai assistai hier à “une lecture.” Vous bâillez, marquis! Un moment. Ce n’étoit pas “un auteur.” Ce n’étoit pas “une tragédie.” –Que c’étoit-ce donc? bien pis encore en apparance, bien moins en réalité. Ce étoit “un poëme épique;” mais un poëme en qui le comique l’emportoit sur l’héroïque, ce qui en diminuoit prodigieusement l’ennui.
(From the pamphlet entitled La prise des Annonciades, page 3.)1

The pamphlet is a genre of literary engagement. From the 5000 or so Mazarinades that were written during the Fronde uprising, to the pamphlets of the Revolution, to the pamphlet literature inspired by the issues leading to the events of May 1968, the pamphlet in France has existed as the genre most readily adopted by partisans complicit in a political or social crisis.2 Theorizing the genre is an extremely difficult task, as several closely related forms (satire, polemic, parody and pastiche among others) create a fluid grouping that categorizes “une littérature de combat.”3 Yet one must still answer the question raised in the passage above: “Que c’étoit-ce donc?” The passage marvelously encapsulates the effort at definition that any introduction to this collection would have to make. Working through une lecture, une tragédie, un poëme épique…, the author attempts to locate what one might call a text-based event. In naming various genres and then alluding to the relation of appearance and reality (a theme with a very specific eighteenth-century response), one might think the passage was written precisely to describe the genre of pamphlet literature. Although the passage levels more of an aesthetic judgment (one based ultimately on entertainment value), it does touch upon all the aspects of the genre: its versatility, its public nature, its polemical character, and its existence in the spheres of both representation and public opinion.4 The pamphlets in Emory’s collection exhibit all these characteristics as revealed by a quick inventory of the various subgenres.

In terms of strict genre, 27 of the 89 “literary” pamphlets can be considered pièces. The texts either refer to themselves as drame, tragédie, comédie (or some combination: tragi-politi-comique, héroi-tragi-comédie…) or make another theatrical reference strong enough to label them as such. The theatre of the revolution can be considered a discrete subject, and some of these pièces are better known works like Marie-Joseph Chénier’s Charles IX, which generated much controversy over the state’s use of censorship, or the violent, anti-jacobinist works, L'intérieur des comités révolutionnaires by Pierre Ducancel and L’Ami des lois by J.L. Laya.5 If the theatrical status of the Scène comique entre le diable et un procureur might seem untenable due to its length (8 pages) and the political cant in its title, a blatant political message marks most all of these plays. They run the political spectrum, with lines reading “Trône d’Henri IV & de Louis XIV, tu seras à jamais inébranlable!” to “Toujours réprimandé!… Ma foi je n’y tiens plus. Quel ton! Vit-on jamais d’ordres plus absolus?”6

A rubric entitled poème might include fourteen of the pamphlets, the keywords being poème, chanson, hyme, ode. Laura Mason argues that song was one of the most common forms of communication during the French revolution, and she creates a striking tableau: Paris, “a city that encompassed a cacophony of voices as revolutionaries and royalists filled streets, theaters, and cafés, organizing festivals, giving speeches, rioting and, throughout all, singing.”7 Again, this grouping also manifests the elements which characterize the pamphlet genre. The vitriolic poem Les Crimes de Paris attacks Mirabeau and Laclos among others in perfectly rhymed couplets. The Chanson d'un sans-culotte borrows from the well-known La Carmagnole to narrate another military exploit, the fall of Toulon. The tune of a children’s nursery rhyme is used to celebrate the death of Robespierre in La Jacobinière en déroute.

Another fourteen pamphlets make an explicit allusion to a religious form (catéchisme, épître, prière, oraison). Most use the form as a satirical vehicle (recalling the normal public nature of these addresses), like Messe du 14 juillet 1790, which purports to recount the drunken abbot Maury imagining himself giving mass. The remaining 34 include a vast variety of forms: opuscule, credo, lettre, adresse, etc., Although not all of them make reference to a specific form, the allusions to form serve as intertextual markers, deployed by the authors to make their case. It is the intent to persuade which informs most of these pamphlets. A wonderful example of this is the Nouveau Dictionnaire François…composé par un Aristocrat, which defines the very term “aristocrat” as “L’homme qui déplaît ou qu’on craint.” Despite the pamphlet genre’s polemical nature, an element of humor often underlies even the most violent attacks. The Nouveau Dictionnaire does not hesitate to inscribe on its title page the ironic retort to the entire document’s perversion of genre. The epigram reads: “Et c’est la vérité, comme on dit, toute nue.”

I have touched upon only one aspect of these pamphlets, genre, yet there are of course many more questions to ask of our collection. Although limited, one avenue might be the intertextual relation within the collection. Three texts respectively entitled Grande ménagerie des animaux vivans…, Description de la ménagerie royale d'animaux vivans… and Description et vente curieuse des animaux féroces (which contains such beasts as the simia jacobina), allude to a specific public event. A different path of inquiry, again using the entire collection, concerns the publishing patterns of these pamphlets. Rarely do these pamphlets list the same publisher. How do these pamphlets fit into publishing trends of the era? What are the histories of these particular publishers? Why is the typographical use of signature (the letters at the bottom of the page used in the printing layout process) somewhat erratic? What was the state of copyright law under the new Republic (see the note addressing the issue of copyright on page 2 of La veuve du républicain…)? Another question for the entire collection might be the one raised by Harvey Chisick. Regarding the status of language in these pamphlets, how do they fit (or not fit) into what he argues is a fundamental shift in the mode of discourse that takes place between 1789 and 1792, from the art of persuasion which characterized the open, dialogic mode of the Enlightenment to a discourse of denunciation and condemnation?8 One might also study the images associated with these texts. The pamphlet entitled Purgatif de la magistrature ou la régénération des tribunaux opens with a delightful engraving.9

As individual works the pamphlets also merit attention. Are they more worthy as literary works or as historical documents? How do these pamphlets function as literary texts? How do they utilize or confound genre? What may be said about the chansons, hymnes and odes?10 What kinds of allusions do they make? On this latter point, a specific question with import across several texts would aim at the geneology of the lanterne found in three of these pamphlets: La lanterne magique patriotique…; Les grandes marionnettes républicaines, suivies de la fameuse lanterne magique …; Prieres pour les aristocrates agonisans …et les litanies de la lanterne. This of course raises the question of history. Who were these authors? Who are the historical persons who populate these texts? If Loustalot and l'abbé Royou are arguing over freedom of the press, and Marat and Verginiaux over federalism, what were the particular historical circumstances which provoked these pamphlets?11 How did these pamphlets participate in or reflect the Revolution?

There are of course other ways of defining the collection. The pamphlets do fall into a rough temporal division:

While this sample of pamphlets is too small to make any generalizations about, for example, the publishing output during the Revolution, it does help to contextualize these texts, most all of which are exceedingly specific in regards to contemporary events. The pamphlets are also physical objects, and have thus been institutionally defined. As historical objects in an archive, the pamphlets have undergone material changes. The Woodruff Library, in a very practical manner, decided in 1949 to bind most of this heteroclite collection of pamphlets, thus imposing a physical order of proximity, an order related to the ease of shelving, finding and handling, upon the collection.13 The binding orders this subsection of Emory’s collection, the “literary” pamphlets, according to author or title if there is no author.14 The modern curator must consider yet another practical aspect which defines these texts: their availability. The current trend of making archive material available online in digital format imposes a order of priority in regard to the task of producing a digital version of these texts. Of the 89 pamphlets, 51 are available on Gallica (the French National Library's digital site) -- the vast majority of the Gallica pamphlets are in .pdf format, which does not allow for searching across pages, nor across documents.15 The 38 pamphlets that are not available through Gallica are at the top of this project’s “to digitize” list.

The organizational requirements and the transformation of these pamphlets from loose-leaf to digital hypertext have not, however, changed the content. The pamphlets still demand to be read, interpreted and enjoyed as literary texts. This brief introduction to the collection can only outline some of the issues raised by these works, issues both literary and historical. Yet hopefully it will inspire future researchers to engage these pamphlets so rich in material. May the erudite and the sleuth both be welcomed, and may their intellectual voyages find healthy fruit.


Michael H. Kazanjian
Emory University
July 2003



1. While the pamphlet in Emory’s collection lists “L.....H, M. le Cte. C.....S de” as the author, Martin & Walter lists this pamphlet’s author as Bonnay, Charles-François, marquis de, 1750-1825 (cf. Martin & Walter, Catalogue de l'histoire de la révolution française, Paris: Éditions des Bibliothèques nationales, 1936-, Vol I: 4092)… Also note that the collections at Columbia University and in the Bancroft library, as contained in their respective RLIN records, indicate that this is a half title. The full title of their entries reads "Réponse à..." and "Seconde réponse à..." They concur with Martin & Walter in regards the authorship.
2. While Emory has some 3000 of these, other U.S. libraries have catalogued up to 30,000 in their collections, and still more are held by the Bibliothèque Nationale and other French archives. Harvey Chisick has estimated that perhaps 70 to 80 thousand pamphlets were produced during the revolutionary period. Harvey Chisick, "Special Issue: Pamplet Literature of the French Revolution," History of European Ideas 17, March/May (1993): 152.
3. Marc Angenot, La Parole Pamphlétaire : Contribution À La Typologie Des Discours Modernes (Paris: Payot, 1982) "Introduction," and Chisick, "Special Issue: Pamplet Literature of the French Revolution," 149-50.
4. Chantal Thomas has argued that to fully appreciate the pamphlet genre we have to take into account the noisy, public atmosphere of their reception, as many were publicly read aloud. Chantal Thomas, "L'heroine Du Crime: Marie-Antoinette Dans Les Pamphlets," La Carmagnole Des Muses: L'homme De Lettres Et L'artiste Dans La Revolution, ed. Jean-Claude Bonnet, Lib. du Bicentenaire de la Revolution Fr. ed. (Place of Publication: Paris, 1988).
5. Marvin A. Carlson, The Theatre of the French Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966) 21, 232, 143.
6. Respectively from La Cour plénière, p. 75 and La veuve du républicain, p. 7.
7. Laura Mason, Singing the French Revolution : Popular Culture and Politics, 1787-1799 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996) 2.
8. Harvey Chisick, "Introduction to Edition Entitled "the Press in the French Revolution"," Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 287 (1991): 8-9.
9. This pamphlet is listed neither in RLIN nor in Gallica, although it is listed in Martin and Walter with the same bibliographic information as Emory’s pamphlet.
10. See Richet on orality in the volume edited by Chisick, Chantal Thomas’ article cited above, and Laura Mason’s Singing the French Revolution.
11. See the pamphlet entitled Dialogue des morts de la révolution…
12. For a surprising, though dated, statistical analysis that reveals an interesting methodology, see Ralph Greenlaw’s 1957 article about the geographical origins, main thematic and perspective of a group of 967 pamphlets. Ralph Greenlaw, "Pamphlet Literature in France During the Period of the Aristocratic Revolt (1787-1788)," Journal of Modern History 29 (1957): 349-54.
13. Please see Provenance for an overview of the entire collection.
14. “Literary” as opposed to ‘pamphlet pûr’? Seven volumes of Woodruff library’s pamphlet collection are labeled “Literary” – see Collection.
15. Gallica’s collection of pamphlets derive from Colin Lucas' Archives de la Revolution Française (U.S. title: The French Revolution Research Collection).



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