Calvet's Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in Eighteenth-Century France

By L. W.B Brockliss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
The Bibliophile

I. THE LIBRARY

Calvet’s library was housed in a room on the second floor of his house, probably directly above the salon where he kept his finest antiquities (Fig. 1.3). Normally members of the Republic of Letters had their library adjacent to or within their study so Calvet’s arrangement was not ideal, especially as he grew older and became less and less mobile. In the final years of his life he must have been largely dependent on his servant, Thérèse, to fetch and carry his books. It can only be assumed that the arrangement was forced upon him by the relatively cramped dimensions of his town house. At one time, shortage of space may even have led him to keep a part of the library in the attic, for in a letter to Séguier, written in 1768, Calvet revealed that a number of his books had been spoilt by rain entering through the roof.1

According to the inventory taken on Calvet’s death, the library was decorated with two mirrors and a number of nondescript religious paintings and seascapes, while the floor was cluttered with ten armchairs and two small tables, one in bad condition.2 The manner in which Calvet displayed his books remains unknown. Although the inventory went on to list his books in detail, they were not catalogued in the order they were found on the shelves. Rather, they were first taken out of the book-cases and sorted according to their size. The inventory then began with the folio volumes, proceeded to the quartos, and concluded with the smaller formats.3 Calvet’s personal catalogue of his library is no more informative.4 This followed the standard form of classification in use in eighteenth-century France and grouped the books into five major categories—theology, jurisprudence, the sciences and arts, belleslettres, and history and antiquities—and each major category, except the second, into a number of commonplace and self-explanatory subdivisions (see Table 6.1).5 The catalogue, however, carries no authorial preface, and the

1 BM Nîmes MS 140, fo. 105: Calvet to Séguier, 13 Nov. 1768.

2 BMA MS 5628, fos. 411–13. The armchairs were valued at a mere 24 livres 50 sous.

3 Ibid., fos. 416–49. This part of the inventory was done by Balthazar Seguin, an Avignon printer/ bookseller. Only the folio and quarto volumes were carefully separated. The books took two days to put into piles and five days to inventory.

4 BMA MS 2346, fos. 277 ff: ‘Catalogue des livres de ma bibliothèque’ (hereafter in the notes of the chapter: ‘catalogue’); there is a copy in BMA MS 5624.

5 The invention of this form of classification was attributed to the Parisian bookseller Gabriel Martin. For its popularity, see Michel Marion, Collections et collectionneurs de livres au XVIIIesiècle (Paris,

-281-

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Calvet's Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in Eighteenth-Century France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • List of Figures xv
  • List of Tables xvi
  • List of Abbreviations xvii
  • Biographical Note xviii
  • A Note on Terms xix
  • Currency Note xx
  • Introduction the Republic of Letters and Enlightenment 1
  • Chapter One - Esprit Calvet 20
  • Chapter Two - The Intellectual Milieu 69
  • Chapter Three - The Physician 126
  • Chapter Four - The Antiquarian 193
  • Chapter Five - The Natural Historian 242
  • Chapter Six - The Bibliophile 281
  • Chapter Seven - The Revolutionary Climacteric 335
  • Chapter Eight - Conclusion: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters 390
  • Bibliography 413
  • Index 435
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