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Henri Grégoire Proposes a National Bibliography of France

1793 to 1794

French Catholic priest and revolutionary leader Henri Grégoire (Abbé Grégoire) published Instruction Publique. Rapport sur la bibliographie, delivered at the Convention nationale, seance du 22 Germinal, l'a 2 de la République. I have two different typeset versions of this pamphlet in my library, both of which consist of 16pp.  That with the colophon: DE L'IMPRIMERIE NATIONALE on the last leaf would appear to be first.

Grégoire believed that a French national bibliography would furnish material for :

1) a new history of France

2) a dictionary of pseudonymous and anonymous literature

3) a new geneological table of human knowledge

4) paleography of the French language, "which will be from now on the language of liberty."

By exchanging duplicates of rare and very expensive volumes, including specifically incunabula printed on vellum, the Bibliothèque nationale could be completed. (p. 11)

Abbé Grégoire hoped that the French government would sponsor this project, which it did not.  Had it done so, this would have been the first government-sponsored national bibliography.

Grégoire also condemned the recent destruction of libraries during the Revolutionary violence, and celebrated the arrival in Paris of a copy of Titus Livius, Historiae Romanae decades, edited by Joannes Andrea Bussi, bishop of Aleria. Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1470.  ISTC No.: il00238000. To Grégoire the copy was notable not only because of its rarity but because during a seige a bullet broke through its covers and margins without damaging the text (Grégoire p. 11).

An English translation of Grégoire's work was published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin Bache in 1794: National Convention. Report on the means of compleating and distributing the National Library Made in the name of the Committee of Public Instruction, the 22d germinal, second year of the Republic. (April 11, 1794.) 

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