French Revolutionary Tracts

La Guillotine permanente
Detail from the first page of La Guillotine permanente by Louis Roch Joseph Boussemart [Paris, 1793?]. Shelfmark: F.437.(9.).

The French Revolutionary Tracts collection comprises 50,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals printed in France between the 1780s and 1840s.

About the collection

The collection traces the evolution of the Revolution from the breakdown of monarchical government, through the rise of Napoleon, to the restoration of the Bourbons. It contains material about the emergence of constitutional government, the transformation of France from a collection of provinces loyal to the monarchy into a nation-state, and the attempt by the French republic to export its revolution across Europe.

It includes publications of the different legislative bodies, as well as those issued by local government and electoral bodies. It contains cahiers de doléances and publications expressing the reactions of private individuals to events as they unfolded.  In addition to works by well-know figures such as the abbé Henri Grégoire and Olympe de Gouges, we also have  fascinating sources for the history of issues such as slavery and racism as well as material related to the French colonies in the Caribbean, which charts the transformation of the French slave-based colony of Saint-Domingue into the free black republic of Haiti.

The collection was acquired from the politician and writer John Wilson Croker in three tranches in 1817, 1831 and 1856. The Tracts are bound in approximately 2, 200 volumes and stored in three separate shelfmark sequences: F., F.R. and R.

The Library also holds a collection of books, single-sheet items and plates by and relating to Jean-Paul Marat dating from 1793 to 1891 and donated in 1898 by François Chèvremont. The engravings in Chèvremont’s collection are now with the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings.

What is available online?

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Catalogue records for individual items are included in Explore the British Library and these can be ordered to the Rare Books & Music Reading Room. It is also possible to order by shelfmark using the ‘Request Other Items’ tab, then selecting the ‘Humanities and Social Science collection’ option, then entering’ French Revolution Tracts’ in the Author and Title boxes.

There is a specialist guide to the French Revolutionary Tracts collection, French Revolutionary Collections in the British Library, arranged by shelfmark with indexes and brief descriptions of contents.

Our holdings are complemented by the French Revolution Research Collectionedited by Colin Lucas, which gathers books and archive material on 30,000 microfiches. The set comprises 12 sections. Each section has a printed guide and all 12 guides are available on open access in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room.

Further information

How to guides

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

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Using the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to use the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)