From the Reading Room: Who’s Who of Early Modern France

Contributed by Jessica DeVos, one of the Beinecke’s summer graduate fellows and a Ph.D. candidate in the Yale University French Department.

Premier volume de la bibliothèque du Sieur de La Croix-du Maine

In his preface, La Croix du Maine states that he is cataloging 500 years of great French writers in order to honor France and her King. His finished product, however, focuses almost exclusively on 16th century writers and resembles a “Who’s Who” of Early Modern France. Each entry contains the author’s full name, their region or city of residence, and place of birth (if it differs from where they are currently residing). La Croix du Maine lists each writer’s publications, their publishers, and often the year of publication as well. He includes dates of activity and, when applicable, year of death. While many of the entries remain relatively straightforward and factual, the author occasionally includes asides or comments that can be both revealing and amusing.

I have found this 16th century text to be far more useful for my research than many modern search engines. I am interested in Early Modern French women writers, many of whose work was never published and only circulated in manuscript form. By working “backwards,” starting with contemporary catalogs, I have discovered authors who have long been forgotten and works overlooked by modern scholars.

Jessica DeVos was a Beinecke Graduate Fellow this summer, and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Yale University French Department.  Her project is entitled “Autobiography, Authorship, and Artifice: The French Verse of Mary, Queen of Scots and the Reception of Renaissance Women Poets.”

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