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The Collation

The Folger’s Mazarinades: Libraries within Libraries

In 1652, Gabriel Naudé argued passionately for the importance of libraries and collecting books in a brief pamphlet, Advis a nosseigneurs de Parliament. Naudé repudiates a proposal by the parliament of Paris to break up and sell off the library of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, chief adviser to Louis XIV and the parliament’s arch enemy. As Mazarin’s librarian, Naudé had crisscrossed Europe over ten years to gather the more than 40,000 books in Mazarin’s collection. He details the rich and varied holdings in Mazarin’s library, arguing that the parliament’s sale would result in a devastating loss of knowledge for the French people and, indeed, all of Europe. These collections include “two hundred bibles translated in all sorts of languages,” “all the old and new editions as much of the Holy Fathers as of all other classical Authors,” and “the common laws of more than one hundred and fifty cities and provinces, for the most part foreign.” 


What a fascinating case study of the histories of collection, dispersal, and (possibly) virtual reassembly of a library. This argument before the parliament of Paris has me thinking of Naude’s goals as in counterpoint to Milton’s argument for unlicensed printing before a very different Parliament. Just for starters, there are as many threats to the “potencie of life” in books after publication as before . . .

Kathleen Lynch — January 29, 2013


Yes, it is uncanny how Naude echoes Milton. He even compares the library to his daughter, personalizing Milton’ s claim that “as good as kill a man a kill a good book.” I wish I could argue that Naude had read Areopagitica, but it was not translated into French until much later and, as a far as I can see, Naude never made it to England. I do suspect that Naude had at least heard of Areopagitica from one of his many erudite contacts. Perhaps one of them translated or summarized parts of it for him. An avenue for more research…

Kathryn Gucer — January 29, 2013


The Folger’s mazarinades have most probably long been a hidden treasure, but in addition to the affirmation that “They are not individually cataloged online in Hamnet, nor can they be found in the library’s card catalogs” it should be mentioned that Folger’s mazarinades are listed in Robert O. Lindsay and John Neu: Mazarinades : A checklist of copies in major collections in the United States. Metuchen, N. J., 1972.
In his overview of American collections, Hubert Carrier writes that there are «notamment à la Folger Shakespeare Library, un certain nombre d’éditions qui different de la description bibliographique donnée par Moreau » ( Hubert Carrier. Les mazarinades, 2 vols, Genève : Droz, 1989-1991, vol. 1, pp. 37-38).

Anders Toftgaard — March 11, 2013


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