Libraries & Culture 36.3 (2001) 472-473
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Les Livres de Claude Dupuy:
Une bibliothèque humaniste au temps des guerres de religion
Les Livres de Claude Dupuy: Une bibliothèque humaniste au temps des guerres de religion. By Jérôme Delatour. Paris: Éditions de l'Enssib and L'École des Chartes, 1998. xvii, 344 pp. 200 F. ISBN 2-910227-22-7.
Serendipity: "the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident" (Oxford English Dictionary, 2000). I begin this review with a reference to the word "serendipity" for a reason. While I was doing preliminary research on an historical paper that contains a section on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), I received a copy of this book to review. More perfect timing I cannot imagine. Reading through a variety of books and papers on the history of the BNF and its royal antecedents, I had come across several mentions of Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, known as two of the greatest builders in that institution's history. Their contributions to the Royal Library were so appreciated that in other histories their portraits are included as illustrious "fathers of the BNF" (see Simone Balayé, La Bibliothèque nationale, des origines à 1800 ).
Their own father was Claude Dupuy (1545-94), but he appears almost nowhere in the histories of the BNF. In the more than five hundred pages of the excellent work by Balayé, one finds exactly one mention of him, in a footnote in the chapter on "Les Frères Dupuy." It mentions only that he owned some precious manuscripts, notably, the epistles of Saint Paul in Greek and Latin. In other histories he appears not at all. One might presume that his sons are the only members of the family worthy of study in this regard, until M. Delatour sets [End Page 472] the record straight. As he mentions in his introduction, Claude Dupuy, the far-sighted jurist and noted humanist, did not receive any mention at all in L'Europe des humanistes, a work that covers the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries and includes the work of 2,350 scholars and other learned persons (see J.-F. Maillard, J. Kecskeméti, and M. Portalier, L'Europe des humanistes [XIVe-XVIIe siècles] [Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1998]).
This book, the published version of a thesis written for the École Nationale des Sciences de l'Information et des Bibliothèques, is divided into two distinct parts. The first is the life of Claude Dupuy a fascinating distillation of facts and observations on his library and how it survived to the present day. The second and much longer section is the inventory taken by one Denis Duval in 1595 after the early death of Claude Dupuy. This extensive list is supplemented with notes by Jérôme Delatour on the identity of each work in Claude's library and its present disposition. Denis Duval was meticulous, and it is a wonderful thing that his inventory survived. He divided the collection into six intellectual categories and then again into three physical categories so that a work could be put into "Droit" and "Manuscrits" or "Théologie and Portraiture," for example.
One reason that M. Dupuy has been overlooked so far is that he died before he could publish anything of note. Another, of course, is that his sons went on to play such a pivotal role in the history of the Royal Library that they overshadowed him completely.
This is what we learn from M. Delatour: Claude Dupuy was a humaniste extraordinaire, a magistrate and conseiller in Paris, part of the elite and the owner of one of the greatest libraries in the kingdom. Over his lifetime he assembled manuscripts and printed works, both ancient and modern, with particular attention paid to the texts of antiquity. After his death, an inventory of his library counted over 2,000 works, including 835 printed editions. The collection included volumes by Plutarch, Aristotle, Plato, Homer, Seneca, and Virgil as well as the aforementioned editions...