The Robert L. Dawson French Collection
The Robert L. Dawson French Collection represents a rich repository of primary material for the study of the long eighteenth century and its influence on European culture generally. The collection consists of over 15,000 printed titles and 5,000 manuscripts, both the work of the great names of the period and of forgotten figures who wrote less familiar work, much of it ephemeral. Perhaps Bob Dawson’s primary interest regarding his collection was related to the manner in which it was produced: how the books came to be written and printed; how they passed the censor (or did not), and in what form; and how they were acquired and passed among the various readerships who would subsequently encounter them.
Because his interest was in the fluid relationship between written artifacts and their recipients, the volumes on display are generally in their original bindings, and most resemble the books as they would have been handled by their initial readers.
Sample highlights of the collection:
Louis XIV (1638-1715). Signed document regarding financial matters. 1664.
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859). Autograph letter signed. A letter memorializing de Tocqueville’s notable great-grandfather, G. C. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes.
Françoise Paule d’Issembourg d’Happoncourt, Madame de Graffigny (1695-1758). Lettres d’une Péruvienne [The Peruvian Princess] (Amsterdam: Compagne, 1748). The large gathering of editions of this influential epistolary novel is a highlight of the Dawson Collection.
Nouvelle Dissertation sur les moeurs, les droites, la dignité et l’origine de le nobless française tant ancienne que moderne (1728). A manuscript book, author unknown, articulating the attitudes of the French nobility during the period following the reign of Louis XIV.