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French Studies

Provides annotated links to scholarly resources of particular interest to students & faculty researching at U.Va.



Adam Ewing; Steve Hedberg photo illustration From University of Virginia Magazine, 2019.

Collection Description

U.Va. Library system collects materials in all areas of French Studies mainly to support the research and scholarship of faculty and the learning of graduate and undergraduate students of French language, literature, and other Social Sciences and Humanities fields of study, as well as of Francophone studies.
This collecting responsibility addresses the needs of the French Department, La Maison Française, and the U.Va. Program in France. U.Va library, however, fully supports also the needs of faculty and students in other U.Va. Academic Programs (Comparative Literature, Latin American Studies, American Studies, the Program in Political & Social Thought, Women and Gender Studies, etc.) and Departments (History, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, Anthropology, Art & Art History, Drama, Politics, Media Studies, Music, Economics, etc.)..

History of Collection and Special Collections

The U.Va. library French collection can be traced to the origins of the University founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 when a large selection of books published in French (about 525) were selected by Thomas Jefferson to be included in the original University Library, which at that point contained a total of 8.000 volumes (as indicated in the first printed catalog of the university of Virginia Library published in 1828).
The creation of the School of Modern Languages, in which French was included as a foreign language within the Masters degree as early as 1832 and as one of the two required languages since 1859, promoted the implementation of a library acquisition program in French subjects and languages for building a research print collection.
By the end of the 20th century the collection grew to 130,000 monographs in French language and during the first decade of the 21st century the first steps were implemented to begin solidifying the e-book collections to serve French Studies.
The Douglas H. Gordon Collection of French Books deserves special mention: “one of the great American collections of French books dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, arguably the most important collection of its kind in private hands before it was bequeathed to the University of Virginia by the late Douglas Huntly Gordon”. It is an important group of French books (1,243 volumes; over 600 were printed before 1600) on philosophy, history, and literature, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. The collection's particular strength is the Renaissance, where such authors as Montaigne, Ronsard, Estienne, and Rabelais are well-represented. The thirty-six volume Encyclopaedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers… (1751-1780), known as the Diderot Encyclopedia, is unquestionably the most important title in the collection. Currently an ongoing digitization project of this material is in place.

Estimate Holdings for French Studies

171.000 volumes in French language;
350.000 volumes in all subjects and all languages.
125.000 e-books published originally before 1930.
8.000 journals
10.000 microforms
3.300 videos and DVD
1.094 sound recording
2.600 Musical scores
800 manuscripts and documents ;