CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558
COMMENT: Tony Angiletta, Assistant University Librarian for Collections (415) 725-1011
Libraries acquire major French collection
STANFORD -- One book features an opening page with a drawing of a steam engine. Another tiny volume delineates how taxes should be imposed.
"Some are huge and some are little-bitty, but I've rarely - if ever - seen a private library with so many old volumes in such impeccable condition," said Ralph Hester, professor of French and Italian.
Hester, who first saw the collection a year ago, in a private home near Paris, says he is "delighted" that it now is available at Stanford.
The 1,500 books and manuscripts that date from the late 1400s to the middle of the 19th century recently were acquired by the Stanford University Libraries. The volumes will be known as the Gustave Gimon Collection of French Political Economy, in memory of Gustave Gimon (1907-1991), a philanthropist and leader of the French Resistance.
The research materials are composed primarily of works in French, and include volumes on religious theory, trade with the Americas, colonial policy and transmission of economic systems to non-European settings. They are among the titles Thomas Jefferson and other founders of the American republic prized as bedside reading materials.
"There are books that deal with the most obscure economic concerns of the royal house of France and those that cover the broadest economic themes of state and society," Hester said. "One of my favorites is an early document from the 16th century that lists all the gardeners and carpenters and household staff of King Henry IV and their responsibilities."
Hester said the volumes range so broadly because political economy was not formally constituted as a discipline until the late 18th or early 19th century. As a result, the collection contains works touching on a variety of themes in French and European religious, political, social, cultural and economic history.
Economic questions are considered, but often in a broad philosophical context. Commentaries on the Wars of Religion and theories about the nature of monarchy and the need for constitutional limits are found on the same shelves with publications related to taxation, trade and public finance. Journals and newspapers promoting workers' rights constitute an important part of the 19th-century section, with first proofs, full runs and related publications. The volumes combine to demonstrate the interlacing of economics and political theory in the years before and after the French Revolution.
"We're very strong in culture and events surrounding the Revolution, so we've had a long-standing interest in addressing some of the gaps in French history that have existed," said Tony Angiletta, assistant university librarian for collections, who supervised the recent purchase.
After Hester and Jean-Marie Apostolides, professor of French and Italian, inspected the collection in France, it was transported to an antiquarian book dealer in Amsterdam. There Angiletta supervised the cataloging and packing of the volumes.
"I spent two days checking the books and verifying probably 90 percent of the titles," Angiletta said. "For materials from the 16th and 17th century, they're in marvelous condition."
The collection arrived at Stanford in mid-February and was installed at the Stanford Auxiliary Library, where it will remain until the Green Library renovation is completed in 1999.
On March 28, Jean-Paul Gimon, a graduate of Stanford and son of the French patriot for whom the collection is named, visited the auxiliary library to see the volumes in place.
"There were probably three dozen 3-by-5 index cards sticking out between the books on the shelves, and I asked the curator what that was about," Angiletta said. "It turns out that graduate students have found out about the arrival and already are using the collection."
Hester, a specialist in French Renaissance literature, said he is looking forward to spending time with a first edition of the story of the League, a religious-political force that was opposed to the royal house in the 16th century.
"It's written by Timothy Goulart, one of the great intellectuals of the 16th century and a Protestant theologian who left behind a voluminous work," Hester said. "The League was headed by the dukes of Lorraine who hoped, in connivance with the Hapsburgs in Spain, to take over power in France from the ongoing line."
Purchase of the Gimon collection was supported by special funding from President Gerhard Casper's office, the Stanford University Libraries, and by the relatives of the French Resistance leader.
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