The Russell Collection contains over 300 books, broadsides, and pieces of ephemera produced between the waning decades of the ancien regime and the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. The collection was assembled in the early 1950s by William F. Russell (1890 – 1956), President of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College from 1949 to 1954. With material spanning the 16th to the early 20th century, the majority of the collection was produced between 1775 and 1800. Highlights include early editions of the 1791 and 1793 French Constitutions, letters written and signed by pioneering economist Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, and official documents signed by Robespierre and other members of the Comite du Salut Public.
The Collection is comprised of the following components: 1) The French Monarchy and the Ancien Regime; 2) Ideological Roots of Revolution; 3) The Transition to Republicanism and Collapse of the Monarchy; 4) The National Convention and the Committee for Public Safety; 5) Historical and Contemporary Context; and, 6) Miscellanea (Ephemera, Manuscripts, and Books).
Most of the printed material was published by one of the two major publishing houses in Limoges. This concentration of material from a single city offers perspective on the publication and distribution of political and governmental texts in a particular city or departement (one which was especially impacted by the Crown’s frequently shifting tax and trade policies). It also provides important insight into the early work and career of Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, who served as intendant of Limoges from 1761 – 1774.
Limoges was home to several printing houses which, at various times during the Monarchy and Revolution, were designated as official printers of government documents for the region. Most notable among these were the Barbou and Dalesmes families. Both families had been established printers for centuries, but the Barbou appear to have been too closely aligned with the ecclesiastical hierarchy – after 1791, all of the officially published material printed in Limoges was released by members of chez Dalesme.
1) The French Monarchy and the Ancien Regime
A significant portion of the collection is made up of documents from the reign of Louis XVI, issued by the crown, members of the regime, and the Parisian Parlement in the two decades leading up to the Revolution. These items, ranging from royal decrees to trial testimonies, illustrate governmental practice under the monarchy, especially as it relates to trade policy and criminal justice.
2) Ideological Roots of Revolution
The Russell Collection includes a number of books and tracts from writers crucial to the development of revolutionary thought and discourse in France during the 18th-century. First or early editions by Mirabeau, Raynal, Mounier, Marat, and Condorcet, written before and during the upheavals of the early 1790s, reveal the increasingly liberal and radical intellectual currents among France’s intelligentsia. First or early editions of works by Jacques Necker and Turgot also appear, shedding light on abortive efforts at modernization during the various governments under Louis XVI.
3) The Transition to Republicanism and Dissolution of the Monarchy
The full span of the National Assembly, from its foundations during the Brienne and Necker governments to its ceding of legislative authority to the National Convention, is captured through official printed documents (Royal and republican), periodicals, regionally-drafted complaints and instructions, and published addresses. Also included are first or early editions of the French Constitutions of 1791 and 1793, as well as various edicts and documents issued by Louis XVI during l’Assemblee Nationale. The formal inauguration of the National Convention (and the removal of all executive powers from the King) is represented both by an Extrait of the relevant Assembly session, and in an officially published broadside explaining “des motif d’apres lesquels l’Assemblee Nationale a proclame la convocation d’un Convention nationale, et prononce la suspension su Pouvoir executive dans les mains du Roi.”
4) The National Convention and the Committee for Public Safety;
A substantial component of the Russell Collection is comprised of material created by, or related to, the Convention Nationale and the Comite du Salut Public. Nearly 90 official decrees from the legislative body are present, in addition to numerous printed addresses, departmental complaints, and two officially published broadsides related to the trial of Louis XVI. Other highlights include printed decrees and orders from the Committee for Public Safety, a document issued by the Parisian Communards, and an order signed by seven members of the Committee.
5) Historical and Contemporary Context;
A subset of the Collection is made up of books and pamphlets responding to the events of the Revolution, from contemporaneous accounts to late 19th-century histories. The works published during the 1790s and early 1800s, whether biographies of revolutionaries or socio-political commentaries, reveal the mix of horror, regret, enthusiasm and hope stirred up among emigres, international observers, and participants in the revolutionary melee. The texts printed after 1840 reflect the intensive, documentary approach of the French historians in the latter half of the century.
6) Miscellaneous Documents (regional, subject-specific, etc.).
Also included are a number of items (ephemera and manuscripts) that are either subject specific and tangentially related to the French Revolution (i.e.; treatises on the French language, moral philosophy deduced from botanical studies, 17th century medicine), or specific to Limoges and the Haute-Vienne. The latter includes several 16th and 17th century manuscripts from Limoges and Orleans. Several 20th century books, inscribed to the collector W.F. Russell, appear in the collection as well.
All items are in good or better condition, unless otherwise stated.
To view the full inventory, please click HERE.