9780300062830 / 0300062834

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About the book:

From monastic cloisters in the time of Charlemagne to the book-lined studies of 20th-century authors, this study presents an overview of the literary and artistic world in France. The Bibliotheque nationale de France, rich in collections of illuminated manuscripts, books, medals, maps and prints, had its beginnings when Charles V established his library in the falcon tower of the Louvre. During the Middle Ages, culture was the handmaiden of church and government; during the absolute monarchy, it became an instrument of propaganda; in the 18th century it developed an independent voice. This book explores the changing relationship between power and culture in France as seen in the history of its national library. Four American scholars - Peter Gay, Orest Ranum, Elizabeth A.R. Brown, and John J. Contreni - write about the connection between French cultural expression and political power from medieval to modern times. Four French experts from the Bibliotheque national de France - Florence Callu, Antoine Coron, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and Marie-Helene Tesniere - discuss more than 200 of the objects in the library, almost all of which are pictured in the book, exploring their historical significance and their relationship to the Bibliotheque nationale de France. Among these objects are: a 9th-century liturgical manuscript, entirely written in gold and silver on purple parchment; the bronze throne of Dagobert on which Napoleon sat at the founding of the Order of the Legion d'Honneur; Marguerite d'Orleans's 15th-century book of hours with its delicate illuminated borders; a heart shaped world map, published in 1536, showing the newly discovered lands of America; a sonata composed by Mozart when he was seven years old and dedicated to the daughter of Louis XV; a symphony by Berlioz written for the inauguration of the Bastille column; Zola's "J'accuse!"; and more. The book serves as the catalogue for a major exhibition at the Library of Congress that presents a selection of the Bibliotheque nationale de France's treasures. The exhibition opened in September 1995.

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