Clockwise from top left: Abbé Barruel, Thomas Paine, Abbé Grégoire, Général Lafayette
This summer I am spending my days in the Department of Special Collections at Notre Dame’s library, systematically making my way through 60-some of the most controversial-sounding titles of French books published during the French Revolution (of the 266 total). I am looking for clues about who read these books, what they liked, and when, as based on underlinings, marginalia, and any clues I can find on provenance; it is also interesting to learn about historical facets of book binding and illustration. The closest thing to being in a European library is being in a Rare Books room in the USA.
I am doing so in anticipation of the Vizille colloquium on Collecting the French Revolution in late September. It will be fun to show how the collection of such materials ended up here, in the hinterlands of north-central Indiana!
So far, I have found clues suggesting that some folks here at Notre Dame held one particularly controversial writer of the revolutionary age in great esteem. What writer might that be?
1. Thomas Paine
2. Général Lafayette
3. Abbé Barruel
4. Abbé Grégoire