The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

The Folger’s Mazarinades: Libraries within Libraries

A guest post by Kathryn Gucer

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.” 

Naudé was a physician by training, and he emphasized medical and scientific texts in his collecting. His argument in the Advis demonstrates the extent of his own reading and of the learning to be had from libraries that, like Mazarin’s, are open to an erudite public. This library, he says, contains “thresors ramassez dans l’enclos de sept Chambres,” infinite riches in seven rooms. Naudé addresses the four hundred judges in the parliament of Paris as though he were in the same room with them, arguing that he cannot sit back “mutely” and watch their destruction of his precious library. In fact, however, Naudé was using the social media of his day—the printing press—to do what I am doing in this blog. That is, he sought to promote the little known collections of a library and his work in them to a wider audience across France and Europe. Gabriel Naudé did not succeed in preventing the dissolution of Mazarin’s library. But his pamphlet can be found at the Folger Shakespeare Library among its superb collections of political pamphlets from the Fronde, a series of rebellions in France that unfolded from 1648 through 1653.

The Fronde is said to have begun in January 1648 when Parisian hooligans smashed the windows of Mazarin’s house with slingshots, or frondes in French. Mazarin’s opponents quickly added the pen and the printing press to their arsenal of weapons, producing an explosion of brief political pamphlets called mazarinades, after the title of Paul Scarron’s famous satire, La Mazarinade:

La Mazarinade
La Mazarinade

Like much of Mazarin’s original library, the mazarinades are now dispersed throughout the world in private and public collections. Scholars have estimated the total number of titles at somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 (including about 800 manuscripts). By my crude count (hash marks in a notebook), the Folger holds over 2,500, and many more pamphlets if you count the Folger’s variants and multiple editions of individual titles. What is more, the Folger’s mazarinades have long been a hidden treasure. They are not individually cataloged online in Hamnet, nor can they be found in the library’s card catalogs. Instead, the Folger’s mazarinades are listed in the copies of four nineteenth-century bibliographies located in the Acquisitions Office: Celestin Moreau’s Bibliographie des mazarinades and his Supplément à la bibliographie des Mazarinades; Ernest Labadie’s Nouveau Supplément à la bibliographie des mazarinades; and Emile Socard’s Supplément à la biblioographie des mazarinades. Several generations of Folger librarians have put a check mark in pencil next to the entry of each mazarinade in these bibliographies as it was acquired. A check mark with a number over it indicates that the item is part of a volume and gives the volume’s number. As the entry for Moreau 566, Ballade de Mazarin, grand joueur du hoc, suggests, these annotations often add important new bibliographical information:

Cataloger's annotations
Cataloger’s annotations

Here the Folger cataloger notes that: “FSL copy classified as (c) has imprint ‘Paris, chez Jean Brunet’, contains the line omitted in (a).” This entry reveals that many mazarinades appear in variant forms. These variants, as well as multiple editions of a title, were of secondary interest to Moreau and Labadie, who were primarily focused on the authors of these pieces and the micro-contexts in which they first appeared. In denoting subsequent editions and variants, the annotations in the Folger’s bibliographies point to how people outside of the Fronde—publishers, printers, translators, readers—recycled and re-used these materials, a focus of my own scholarship.

The Folger catalogers’ comments have thus been crucial to my work because they illuminate the mazarinades’ afterlife outside Paris, in places like Rouen, Aix, and Amsterdam, where they were reprinted as a kind of foreign information. These annotations point to people and pamphlets that would otherwise be invisible in these books. For instance, Célestin Moreau completely missed the variant editions of an extremely rare collection of mazarinades republished by Rouennese publisher Jacques Cailloué in early 1649, Les Dernières barricades de Paris. Cailloué published three editions of this anthology at the same time that he was organizing the first European publication of Eikon Basilike in French, the bestselling defense of the English King Charles I published in the days after his execution. At the Folger, I have been able to trace the cross-fertilization of these two publication projects by setting the Folger’s edition of this pamphlet next to earlier editions of Les Dernières barricades. Indeed Cailloué seems to be one of the first people to have imagined how the mazarinades could be repackaged and combined for readers beyond the Fronde.

In fact, collections of mazarinades—or recueils, in French—are a signature of the Folger’s holdings. As often as not, when I request a mazarinade (most are four to eight pages in length) at the Folger, I get a tome filled with pamphlets that is anywhere from 200 to 500 folio pages long. The Folger’s tomes made me wonder who collected the mazarinades, when, and why. They also suggested another question. The mazarinades were ephemeral “feuilles volantes” (loose-leaf pamphlets) widely denigrated in their own day and throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Moreau refers to them as “sottises,” stupidities). So how and why do they survive in so many numbers? There is no evidence of a bookseller during the Fronde like Englishman George Thomason, who famously collected each Revolutionary tract as it came into his shop and recorded the date and other information on the book.

In the Fronde, however, there were many well-educated and well-connected readers—especially in Paris—who trawled the book stalls on the Pont Neuf and Parisian bookshops daily, even hourly, for the latest mazarinades. People like Françoise de Bertaut, Madame de Motteville, and even Gabriel Naudé himself acquired pamphlets and wrote about them in diaries or mémoires. They also exchanged and compiled letters in which they guessed the names of the mazarinades’ authors (now scholars’ principal source of bibliographical information for these otherwise anonymous pamphlets). I suspect that at least some of the Folgers’ volumes originated with these readers. It is generally known that many educated French readers began to compile private libraries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and these readers often bequeathed their books to their heirs or to monasteries, collections which were in turn confiscated at the Revolution and became the founding collections of the modern French national libraries.

But what about the Folger’s volumes of mazarinades? One of the most colorful characters in the Fronde, Jean François Paul Gondi, Cardinal de Retz, seems to offer a clue in his Mémoires. “There are more than sixty volumes of pieces composed in the course of the civil wars,” Retz says, “and I can truthfully say that there are not a hundred worth reading.” It is tempting to imagine that, by the time he began to write his memoires in 1669, Retz had had his mazarinades bound in sixty or so volumes (even though they weren’t worth reading!). Clearly, many of the Folger’s volumes of mazarinades were bound long after the actors and readers in the Fronde had died—in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But with the help of the Folger’s Frank Mowery, Rare Bindings Specialist, and Ron Bogdan, Senior Cataloger, I took a closer look at one of the volumes that looked old enough, to my non-specialized eye, to be one of the volumes Retz describes: DC 124 vol. 3 Cage:

binding details: stiffened vellum cover, sewing supports, and headband
binding details: stiffened vellum cover, sewing supports, and headband (click to enlarge)

According to Frank, the binding of this volume suggests that it dates to the second half of the seventeenth century. It is a stiff-board vellum binding (left-hand image above) sewn on four vellum supports (central image), each of which is five millimeters wide. Half of these supports are laced through the covers at the joints. This is a very common binding across England and France (indeed across Europe) in this period. But the headband and edges—more elegant than the handiwork of an English binder of the time—point to a French binder (right-hand image). If you, like me, enjoy the technical details: the edges of the pages are speckled green (red or gold was more common in England), and the headband is sewn with green and yellow silk with a front bead sewn over a laminated vellum core, part of which has been laced through the covers at the joint. This volume of mazarinades could very well have been bound by someone—like Retz, Motteville, or Naudé—who had lived through Fronde, collected its pamphlets, and wanted to preserve them for their historical and personal value.

Indeed, this is what happened to Cardinal Mazarin’s books. His supporters in the parliament secretly bought them up and gave (or sold) many of the books back to Mazarin when he returned to power. Gabriel Naudé, who died in 1653, did not live to see the library fully rebuilt. But his pamphlet—with its lists of the books, authors, and genres in the original collection—may have served as a guide for the reconstitution of the library, which still survives as the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris. But, even there, the original library survives in fragments. Some of Mazarin’s books were never returned and the library has acquired many more items over the generations. Indeed, the Bibliothèque Mazarine probably got many of its recueils of mazarinades during the French Revolution, when the government confiscated the property of its enemies, including church officials, monastaries, aristocrats, and nobles—the descendants of people like Naudé, Retz, and Motteville. Over the generations, the sixty-volume collections that Retz describes were, like Mazarin’s library, broken up, bequeathed, appropriated, sold, and resold. Indeed, although difficult to prove definitively, the Folger appears to have acquired DC 124 vol. 3 as part of a cluster of recueils that were once part of a larger collection. The volume is shelved with four others that have identical seventeenth-century bindings and ink markings on the spines denoting their order in a larger collection of “feuilles volantes”:

as shelved in the Folger's Deck C vault
as shelved in the Folger’s Deck C vault (click to enlarge)

These five books, a remnant of a seventeenth-century library, are surrounded by similar clusters of recueils on the Folger’s shelves, many of them bound in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even the Folger’s individual mazarinades show signs that they were once part of a collection, including holes marking where they were sewn into a book and numbers written into the corners of the pages. At the Folger, plans are afoot to put digital images of the annotated bibliographies in the Acquisitions Office online. This digital source will, like Naudé’s Advis, be a universally accessible record of Folger’s collection, including its recueils. Eventually detailed images of the Folger’s recueils may also appear online in the Folger Bindings Image Collection, where scholars will be able to compare them to recueils at the Bibliothèque Mazarine and other libraries, perhaps reconstituting now lost libraries from their remnants.


I’d like to thank Folger staff members Ron Bogdan, Alan Katz, Rosalind Larry, and Frank Mowery for their help with this piece.

KATHRYN GUCER is currently Visiting Research Scholar at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she writing a book on cross-cultural information exchange in early modern England and Europe.  She was an NEH Long-term Fellow in 2011-2012.


  • 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 . . .

    • 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…

  • 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).

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