Le Moniteur Universel was a French newspaper founded in Paris under the title Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel by Charles-Joseph Panckoucke. It was the main French newspaper during the French Revolution and was for a long time the official journal of the French government and at times a propaganda publication, especially under the Napoleonic regime. Le Moniteur had a large circulation in France and Europe, and also in America during the French Revolution.
We’ve been steadily working on digitizing the run of Le Moniteur that we hold here in Special Collections and Archives for about a year now (how time flies!). We’ve provided access to the publication through the end of 1808 in the FSU Digital Library. Our run of these papers starts with the founding of the newspaper in May of 1789. So, we’ve loaded 20 years worth of the publication or over 7300 issues! We still have quite a long way to go but we’re happy to be providing online access to a publication that supports scholarship here at FSU through the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution as well as beyond our campus.
A look at what a student worker has been up to in Special Collections & Archives this summer
My name is Meg Barrett and I started working with Special Collections and Archives at the beginning of the summer. When I found out that I was going to be working on digitally archiving old pictures from the College of Nursing and the French Napoleonic newspaper Le Moniteur, I was ecstatic. I’m currently a sophomore, majoring in Art History and minoring in French, so old photographs and French newspapers are exactly the sort of things that I love.
Because I am working on two different projects, I generally spend the first half of the week in the Research Center Reading Room and the second half in the Digital Library Center (DLC). In the reading room, I go through and catalogue the volumes of Le Moniteur. On my first day, I started with papers from the year 1792, and I finished the summer with papers from the year 1800. I think it’s amazing to be able to say that I’ve gone through over 2,000 newspapers from the 18th century! In the DLC, I have boxes of photographs in file folders, and my job is to scan the pictures onto the computer, type up information about them into a metadata spreadsheet, and then upload them onto DigiNole so that people anywhere can access them. The dates of the photos range from the 1950s to today, and seeing things from pinning ceremony traditions and headshot styles transition from then to now is such an interesting thing.
Working in Special Collections has been such a wonderful experience: what I’ve been doing has been interesting, the people have been so kind and helpful, and I enjoy it every day. When I found out that I got the job a few months ago, I couldn’t believe it. It’s now the end of the summer, and I will continue working on these projects, and I still can’t believe it!
Born on the French island of Corsica in 1769 on August 15th, Napoleon Bonaparte is known for being the steadfast emperor of France who conquered much of Europe during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. After winning most of his conflicts against relentless European coalitions, Bonaparte was ultimately defeated by the British at the famous battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was imprisoned on the remote island of St. Helena where he died at the age of 51 in 1821.
Just after Napoleon’s passing on the island, one of his doctors created a customary death mask for the remembrance and final portrayal of the great leader. In addition to over 20,000 rare books and manuscripts from this significant era, the Special Collections Department at FSU houses one of the few remaining authentic death masks of Napoleon Bonaparte.
In the early 1960s the Department of History established the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution which thereby led to the creation of this rich collection currently held in Strozier Library. Together, FSU’s Department of History and the Institute allow students a unique opportunity to study this historical period without traveling to Europe. Visitors to our Research Center can access French Revolutionary newspapers, primary source materials, letters, and, of course, Napoleon’s death mask.
Part of the French Revolution and Napoleon Collection is already available online and does not require a campus visit to peruse. Focusing on this period, the FSU Digital Library’s French Revolution Collection on Camille Desmoulins, Lucile Duplesis, and Arthur Dillon contains high-resolution images of original manuscript letters, notes and pamphlets from the years 1702-1876. This unique online collection and many others in the Florida State University Digital Library is open to the public.
Feel free to stop by the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library to wish Napoleon Bonaparte a happy birthday and learn more about the fascinating history surrounding his life.
Today in Special Collections, we are exploring a new addition to the Napoleon Collection which led catalogers on an interesting research journey. Recently, a book titled The Historical and Unrevealed Memoirs of the Political and Private Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, printed in 1821, found its way into Special Collections’ Napoleon Collection. While the text itself contained riddles about the author’s identity and the source’s authenticity, it also contained a letter addressed to the book’s previous owner, Proctor P. Jones, who donated the book to FSU. The text and letter led Cataloger Elizabeth Richey to consider the possibility of fabricated memoirs and how to catalog such things.
At a quick look, The Historical and Unrevealed Memoirs of the Political and Private Life of Napoleon Buonaparte looks like a normal memoir. However, a closer look at the memoir from a cataloger’s perspective raises questions about its accuracy, which leads to the question of how do we catalog a possibly fabricated book?
Elizabeth recognized some possible hints that made her question the memoir’s authority and accuracy. For example, the book’s publisher is listed as “Is only to be had of the author, No. 27, Cirencester Place, Portland, Place, April 1821”, while further research shows that the book was printed by Fargues of Berwick Street, Soho.
Even more interesting is the attributed author of the text: Mademoiselle R. d’Ancemont. After much research and exploration, Elizabeth and other catalogers could not locate any information about this mysterious author; instead, she found evidence that this author may have used a pseudonym. This was supported by a letter found in the book. The writer of the letter argues that due to two references within the text, the memoir was written by “Dangeais”, not R. d’Ancemont. He continues to argue that this name may also have been a pseudonym, and that we may never know who the true author is. Without the author’s real name and background, we are left to wonder if the author is a reliable writer.
As a result of questionable information in the book as well as doubts about the author and publisher, the writer of the letter believes the entire book may be “a fake.” In the letter, the writer states that he thinks the memoir is “completely fabricated”, as was the case for many memoirs written during this period. He and other researchers go as far as to believe that the entire text is not only a fake, but also a fake originally created in English, not a French to English translation as the title page suggests. Other catalogers and researchers seem to share this opinion about this mysterious text. Whether or not the book is a “fake”, it still belongs in Special Collections since it provides insight to this historic era and is a perfect example of a potentially fake memoir.
This interesting find illustrates the amount of time and research a cataloger must devote to cataloging all resources. Without proper information and detailed records, it is difficult for library users to locate sources. Sometimes, the item itself does not present enough information for a proper record. In some cases, particularly with older and donated books, catalogers are lucky enough to find outside sources of information within a book, such as the letter found within this book. In either case, Special Collections catalogers strive to make accurate records so that the collections rare and interesting items can be found and explored by FSU students and faculty.