Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Illustrated poem. Click to enlarge.

"La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France" by Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay-Terk (Paris: Hommes Nouveaux, 1913).

French Literature

The Carlton Lake Collection

Widely recognized as one of the finest research collections of modern French materials in the world, the Carlton Lake Collection is the cornerstone of the French holdings at the Ransom Center. The collection contains outstanding manuscripts, rare first editions, and de luxe edition books, as well as photography, artworks in various media, and original documents of all kinds relating to French literature and culture.

When Carlton Lake (1915-2006) purchased his rare first edition of Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal (1857) in 1936, he also acquired that day an even rarer object: the corrected proof sheet of "Les Litanies de Satan" (undated) one of the longest poems in the book and one of the most celebrated for its subject matter. Nearly every line of the proof sheet, he discovered, contained corrections in Baudelaire's hand. A close comparative study with the published text revealed that the proof showed an earlier, otherwise unknown version of the poem. Moreover, the poem as corrected by Baudelaire, still showed certain substantial differences from the published poem.

Lake concentrated on collecting manuscripts by writers, artists, and musicians of the modern period, particularly working manuscripts with multiple drafts, which revealed the artists' creative thought processes. In addition, he sought out writers' and artists' correspondences, not only for the information they might give about the letter-writer's works and life, but also for the documentation they provide about a particular era. To the Baudelaire file, Lake added significant letters, as well as an autograph manuscript of "La charogne" (undated), the poem that Rilke identified as the first "modern" poem.

A selected list of the Lake Collection's major holdings follows:

Pierre Albert-Birot (1876-1967): the complete archive for the avant-garde review SIC (1916-1919); contains maquettes, page proofs, tear sheets, manuscripts, correspondence, and other original materials relating to Albert-Birot's founding and editorship of the magazine.

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918): manuscript of the prologue to Les mamelles de Tirésias; letters, autograph notes, and other documents relating to the play and its production; manuscripts of works written for his column "La vie anecdotique."

Louis Aragon (1897-1982): letters, manuscripts of poems and prose pieces, including a thirty-three-page typescript of Le cahier noir, a long and searching "reflection on love" related to his novel, La défense de l'infini.

Antonin Artaud (1895-1948): significant correspondences with his publisher and other friends, reflecting his disintegration into mental illness.

Georges Bataille (1897-1962): manuscripts of two of his major works, L'Orestie and Dianus [Histoire de rats. (Journal de Dianus)].

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986): manuscripts of three of her major works, La femme rompue, Les mandarins, and Tous les hommes sont mortels.

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989): multiple drafts of "Ceiling" and "The Way" ("8") as well as manuscripts of some of Beckett's other later works; letters to Georges Belmont and Rick Cluchey, and information on the 1992 and 1993 publications of his Dream of Fair to Middling Women. (For more information on Beckett holdings, see also British & Irish Literature.)

André Breton (1896-1966): manuscripts relating to the Surrealist movement, including "13 études," "La béauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas," "Automatisme de la variante," and "Lumière noire."

Albert Camus (1913-1960): manuscripts and letters, including the manuscript of Le malentendu and corrected page proofs of Les justes, and the manuscript of his Discours de Suède, Camus's acceptance speech for the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961): the complete manuscript of Guignol's band and its sequel, Le pont de Londres, in combinations of autograph manuscript, typescript and corrected typescript with autograph additions, totaling four thousand twenty-two pages. Also, the autograph manuscript of Scandale aux abysses, and a moving correspondence with his friend Mourlet covering the war years and Céline's exile in Denmark, round out the collection.

René Char (1907-1988): letters, including an extensive correspondence with Valentine Hugo, intimate friend of most of the Surrealists; as well as manuscripts of many of his major poems, including "Crésus" and "La récolte injuriée."

Paul Claudel (1868-1955): manuscript of one of Claudel's essential works, Cinq grandes odes, which is eighty-eight pages. (Except for the first ode, the original manuscript of which has never been found, this manuscript is complete.)

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963): Cocteau's own archive covering approximately the period from the early 1900s to the mid 1930s and containing multiple drafts and publishing states of many of his major works (Vocabulaire, Le coq et l'arlequin, Le Potomak, Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance, La noce massacrée, Les enfants terribles), notebooks with unpublished poems and plans for future works, and an extensive correspondence with the leading figures of the era, including an extended witty exchange with Max Jacob; the archive is complemented by Cocteau's library and a collection of approximately three-hundred drawings.

Colette (1873-1954): manuscripts, including a composite handwritten, typed, and typed carbon copy manuscript of Chéri [comédie en quatre actes...Actes I-II].

Paul Eluard (1895-1952): manuscripts of numerous poems, some of them unpublished; a thirty-seven-page unpublished autograph manuscript of definitions prepared by Eluard and Breton for the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme; letters, including a large, important correspondence with his lifelong friend from childhood, the binder A. J. Gonon.

Jean Genet (1910-1986): four heavily corrected draft versions of the play Haute surveillance, sixty to one hundred pages each; complete manuscript of Genet's masterpiece, Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs, one hundred ninety-eight pages, with an additional thirty pieces of manuscript pinned to the numbered leaves.

André Gide (1869-1951): manuscript and corrected typescript of Isabelle; autograph manuscript in two notebooks of Le journal des faux-monnayeurs; manuscript of L'école des femmes; important, unpublished correspondence with Eugène Rouart of over three-hundred letters and accompanying documents.

Georges Hugnet (1906-1974): composed largely of letters received from prominent French artists of the 20th century, the papers of French poet and critic Georges Hugnet document his career and personal life. One notable work contained in these papers is a manuscript of Non vouloir, one of the earliest French Resistance publications.

Valentine Hugo (1887-1968): the papers of this French Surrealist artist encompass her career as a costume designer, artist, and radio broadcaster, as well as documenting her relationships with prominent French artists of the early 20th century, especially her husband Jean Hugo.

Alfred Jarry (1873-1907): manuscripts for Léda, Le mousse, Par la taille, Le moutardier du pape, and La Papesse Jeanne; letters and documents relating to Ubu Roi, including a correspondence with Lugné-Poe in which Jarry proposes that Lugné-Poe produce the play.

Georges Jean-Aubry (1882-1950): a sizable portion of the papers of this versatile critic of art, music and literature.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898): autograph letters to Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Huysmans, Coppée, Charles Morice, Edmund Gosse, John Payne, York Powell, Edouard Dujardin, Félix Fénéon, Courteline, Henri Cazalis, and Henry Roujon, among others, plus a draft of a letter to Rimbaud's mother Marie Catharine Rimbaud.

André Malraux (1901-1976): complete set of galley proofs for La condition humaine, heavily corrected by Malraux and with autograph additions in his hand; complete autograph manuscript of L'espoir.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922): autograph manuscript and proof fragments of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (five large sheets of paste-ups) plus another proof fragment, heavily revised; letters, in particular an interesting collection of seventy-eight notes from Proust to his housekeeper Céleste Albaret.

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891): a collection of numerous documents relating to Rimbaud's life and poetry, many of them unpublished, including manuscripts, letters, drawings, corrected proofs, and similar materials by Rimbaud's sister, Isabelle; his brother-in-law, Paterne Berrichon, poet and artist; his teacher Georges Izambard, and other poets such as Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Claudel.

Saint-John Perse (Alexis Saint-Léger Léger, 1887-1975): corrected page proofs of Eloges, the book that established Saint-John Perse as a major poet; typescript, with autograph emendations, of his 1960 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959): complete archive of the author of the novels Jules et Jim and Deux Anglaises et le continent, both of which were made into films by François Truffaut, including manuscripts of all of Roché's works, autograph manuscript diaries and notebooks kept by Roché over his lifetime, as well as transcriptions for most typed by Truffaut's secretaries, documents relating to Roché's interests in the art world, and voluminous correspondences with such contemporaries as Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Auric, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Marie Laurencin, Pablo Picasso, John Quinn, Albert Roussel, Gertrude Stein, Erik Satie, and Wols.

The Maurice Saillet Collection: Saillet's (1914-1990) important group of materials documenting Sylvia Beach's personal life, her Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and her activities as the first publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980): manuscripts for over a dozen of his works, most of them political in nature, including Joseph Lebon (synopsis for an unpublished play based on the French Revolution), Liberté - Egalité; (philosophical and historical study of the French Revolution), Questions de méthode, and the unpublished L'enfant et les groupes.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901): papers from the family archive, consisting of nearly four-hundred autograph letters by the artist, his mother, his grandmother, and other members of the immediate family, depicting the daily environment of a large and eccentric household constantly on the move from one family château to another, as well as the artistic development of the young Lautrec; the archive is complemented by a group of his childhood drawings.

Paul Valéry (1871-1945): manuscripts for numerous poems and prose pieces, including a sixteen-page autograph manuscript and typescript for a discourse on history; a large number of letters, notably an outstanding group of personal letters to John Middleton Murry in which Valéry discusses his feelings about poetry in general, about his own work, and about other writers—among them Baudelaire, Poe, and Gide—who interested him in particular; and another significant group of letters to Georges Jean-Aubry.

Other French Materials

Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Materials

The Ransom Center has one hundred eighty-eight medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and about two dozen of them are French. Because of their magnificent illuminations, the best-known medieval manuscripts are the Book of Hours. Of the eleven Hours in the collection, all of them dating from the fifteenth century, seven came from France, which was a major center for the production of such books during that era. The most notable of these—the Belleville Hours—was made for the Belleville family, who, from the eleventh century until the French Revolution, owned large land states.

Among the collection's French historical documents is the mid-fifteenth-century manuscript, prominent in size as well as importance, of Book I of Jean Froissart's Chroniques. A fourteenth-century chronicler and poet, Froissart (ca. 1337-1410) documented the major Western European events between the years 1325 and 1400, including the Hundred Years War. The Ransom Center's Froissart manuscript was formerly owned by the renowned American stage actor John Barrymore, who, reputedly, used it as a doorstop.

Other documents of historical interest in this collection are letters by Catherine (1519-1589) and Marie de Médicis (1573-1642), a brief chronicle of French rulers emblazoned with Guillaume Budé's (1468-1540) coat of arms of, and a seventeenth-century interrogation of a man accused of sorcery.

Eighteenth-Century Materials

The Desmond Flower Collection of Voltaire, assembled by the British collector over a period of about thirty years, is a first-rate collection of more than thirteen hundred fifty volumes of predominantly eighteenth-century works by and relating to François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778). Dr. Flower limited his collection to editions published during Voltaire's lifetime and the collection was to serve as a basis for a much-needed definitive biography to replace Bengesco. Almost all of Voltaire's works are present here in first and early editions and many are amplified by surreptitious, concealed, and pirated printings, translations, and adaptations. As an example of the richness of the collection, there are thirteen 1759 editions of Candide and twenty-nine editions of La Pucelle d'Orléans, including one edition with variant manuscript readings and two others in contemporary manuscript versions. The collection also contains an important copy of the first edition of Fragments sur l'Inde et sur Général Lalli (1773) sent by Voltaire to Lally de Tollendal's son in which Lally de Tollendal fils made marginal notes and inserted thirty-six leaves of manuscript notes, a considerable amount of which Voltaire incorporated into later editions.

The Edward Alexander Parsons Library, assembled by the New Orleans-based attorney of French-English extraction, features a wealth of nineteenth-century material documenting the vibrant French culture that has been present in Louisiana from its inception as a territory.

In the years between 1745 and 1749 Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was employed by Louise Marie Madeline Dupin (1706-1799) as a research assistant on her ambitious project to delineate in print the history of women. After years of labor by Rousseau and Madame Dupin, her Ouvrage sur les femmes was shelved unfinished. The collection contains research notes, drafts, and fair copies written by Rousseau, with notes added by Madame Dupin.

Nineteenth-Century Materials

From Kaeo, Northland, New Zealand, Ivan Slater owned possibly the largest private collection of materials relating to Alexandre Dumas Père (1802-1870). The Ivan H. Slater Collection of Alexandre Dumas Papers spans the years 1918 to 1968 and while the only materials in the Dumas's hand are a note and two manuscript fragments from Néron, the collection includes holograph manuscripts, typescripts, and notebooks of translations of all Dumas's major works, as well as bound volumes containing works by and about Dumas, in addition to bibliographies, correspondence, photographs, and a scrapbook. Dumas, who began his career as a clerical worker, is best known for his novels Les Trois Mousquetaîres (1844) and Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1844).

The Artine Artinian (1907-2005) collection of French literary manuscripts represents over thirty years of meticulous accumulation by the distinguished Maupassant scholar. The collection focuses on French writers of the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the largest segment devoted to Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). Other writers represented in this collection include Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Anatole France, Marcel Proust, Rémy de Gourmont, Rachilde, George Sand, Paul Verlaine, and Émile Zola among others. Artwork and photographs belonging to the Artinian Collection may be accessed through those Ransom Center departments.

Commandant of the Cherche-Midi prison, where Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was first held, Ferdinand Forzinetti (1839-1909) always believed that Dreyfus was innocent of treason, and his collection contains a unique assortment of letters, documents and photographs recording the Affair. Correspondents of note include George Clemenceau, Alfred Dreyfus, Ferdinand Labori, Auguste Mercier, Georges Picquart, and Joseph Reinach.

Twentieth-Century Materials

Romanian aristocrat and author, Princess Bibesco's (1886-1973) collection is rich in correspondence with notable literary figures and artists, as well as heads of state, in addition to her personal and family papers. Authors she corresponded with include Paul Claudel, Jean Cocteau, Reynaldo Hahn, André Malraux, Paul Valéry, Max Jacob, Henri de Jouvenel, Anna de Noailles, and Anatole France, among others. Artwork and photographs belonging to the Bibesco Collection may be accessed through those Ransom Center departments.

Literary chameleon and editor of the Revue indépendente, the main publication of the Symbolist movement, Edouard Dujardin (1861-1949) is primarily known as the author of Les lauriers sont coupés (1887) with his innovative use of the interior monologue, which James Joyce credited as his inspiration for his own stream-of-consciousness technique. Housed in one hundred and twenty-one document boxes, the collection not only comprises complete manuscripts of Dujardin's literary endeavors, but also his voluminous correspondence with friends and acquaintances, such as: Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Colette, Paul Dukas, Paul Éluard, Paul Fort, J.-K. Huysman, James Joyce, Pierre Lou├┐s, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Valéry, Richard Wagner, and Willy. Photographs belonging to the Dujardin collection may be accessed through the Ransom Center photography department.

The John Matthews Library of Surrealism includes many works and serials from outside Paris, which reveals the movement's far-reaching influence.

The important and influential French writer Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is represented by the largest collection of his papers outside of Europe. Queneau is perhaps best known as the author of the novel Zazie dans le métro, which was made into a film by Louis Malle. Among the papers are drafts of his novels Le chiendent, Les enfants du limon, and the "Sally Mara" trilogy, On est toujours trop bon avec les femmes, Journal intime de Sally Mara, and Sally plus intime. The collection also includes a notebook of his thoughts while reading James Joyce's Ulysses; and extensive research materials and manuscripts reflecting his lifelong fascination with what he called "fous littéraires" or "literary crackpots," published posthumously as Aux confins des ténèbres.