Guillaume Fau on Victor Hugo and the making of a national collection
Date recorded: 20 Jul 2014
When the State Library of Victoria asked us to lend the manuscript of Les Misérables for the exhibition, we thought it was, we thought that carrying the manuscript all the way from Paris to here in Melbourne was a good opportunity also to give this presentation about the manuscript itself but also some of the major literary collections in our department.
So thanks again to the State Library of Victoria and all its staff for inviting me and organising all this. Thanks John Wiley. Thanks Sue. Thanks to Robert’s team and a nice, and of course all the staff at the Conservation Unit as well.
So Victor Hugo is, of course, one of the most famous French authors. In France he's best known for his poetry, his novels, his plays, but he was during his lifetime very popular too for, and famous for, tackling the political and social issues of his time. And Les Misérables is one of his most famous novels and it's become so popular over the years, of course, because of the characters and the story. But also, I think, because it combines personal and historical elements in the novel. And one of the most important historical events that had a great impact on the writing of the novel was Hugo's exile from France after Napoleon III's coup d'etat in 1851. Victor Hugo was just in the middle of writing Les Misérables, in fact, when he had to leave France, first to Brussels and then onto the Channel Islands. Jersey first and then Guernsey.
So my presentation today has mainly two objectives. The first one is starting from the manuscript of Les Misérables to try and explain how manuscripts and first drafts and fragments can help us to understand how the writer writes his books. In France we call this etude genetic, genetic studies. They are about how a text is born and through what phases of creation.
But beyond Les Misérables, I would also like to tell you more generally about our literary collections at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, because when Victor Hugo decided in his will to bequeath his manuscripts to the Bibliothèque, it was at the time not common, not very common. In fact it was not done at all for an author to do this, and there was really before Victor Hugo's will and after Victor Hugo's will, because after his bequest many manuscripts by other French authors were acquired by the library as well. I will give you a few examples of this.
But, first about Les Misérables. So this is the manuscript, which you can see in the exhibition. At the moment, it's open in the exhibition. I thought it was nice to show it closed to you, so you can see how thick and big it is. In fact, there are two volumes in the collection. This is the first one. The first one is on show only here at the library. The first volume includes parts 1, 2 and 3 of the text and has 945 pages. The second volume includes parts 4 and 5 of the novel and it has 828 pages.
As you can see the cover binding is made of white parchment and the title and the name of the author are written in big, red letters. This was designed by the Victor Hugo himself, when he had some of his manuscripts bound in Guernsey in May 1869. We know the binder's name, he was called Turner. The upper-board binding, which you can see on the screen now, has a black border lining around it. And Hugo's ex libris representing Notre Dame struck by lightning, can be found on the inside cover. And this is the title page. Actually, I went to see the musical last night and they used the title, I think for the curtain at some time of the show, I can't remember if it's at the beginning or the end, but this is what you can see in the show, in the musical, as well.
So, Victor Hugo's writing is very thick here on the title page. He wrote his manuscript using goose quills. You can see the quills in the exhibition. There they are again. They come from the Victor Hugo, from the Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris. And I've read somewhere that Victor Hugo would crush, had crushed the tips of the quills to have this thick writing for the title page so it looked really spectacular. I've checked on the quills the other day in the exhibition. It was the first time I had seen them and I didn't see anything special with the tips of the quills, so maybe it’s just a legend. But anyway, it looks, the title page is really spectacular I think.
So at first sight, the two volumes look very much alike. But up to more than 10 different kinds of paper were used by Victor Hugo to write the novel, from 1845 to 1861, in different places and countries. So the study of the material aspects of the manuscript is very complex. But we can identify two periods in the process of writing.
Before the exile from 1845 to 1848. Victor Hugo's writing during this period is thinner and he writes on the recto and on the verso of the paper, as you can see for page 11 verso and 12 recto of the manuscript. And during the second period of writing, during his exile after when he starts writing the novel again, after 1860, the writing is thicker and he uses only the recto of the page of the manuscript. But through both periods, Victor Hugo would divide the page in two and write the text on the left side of the page only, leaving space for additions and corrections in the margin on the left side of the page.
He began writing the manuscript in Paris on November the 17th 1845. And actually it's a small detail, but it's right there at the top left corner of this page. This is the first page of Chapter 1 of Book 2, The Evening of a Day of Walking that originally opened the novel. And Victor Hugo finished writing Les Misérables in Monte St John in Waterloo, in Belgium, on June the 30th 1861. And the date again appears right there at the bottom, 8.30 in the morning.
The manuscript is not entirely autographed. Sometimes the handwriting is that of Juliette Rue, Victor Hugo's lover. Or that of Julie Chenay, his sister-in-law. Juliette Rue and Julie Chenay would copy the manuscript in preparation for the publication and sometimes Victor Hugo reused some of these fragments to insert them in the manuscript, in his own manuscript, as the process went on. And I think I have an example here of different hands, of different handwritings of these, on this page. The right side is the copy by Juliet or Julie, and the addition is on the left side by Victor Hugo.
So, to understand the chronology of the writing of Les Misérables, I will concentrate on three sources mainly, including the manuscript, which is on show here. But there are two other kinds of documents I would like to tell you about.
So the first ones are about the preparatory work, which took place a few months before Victor Hugo actually began to write the novel in 1845. These documents include sketches, ideas, lists of things to do and so on. After Victor Hugo's death, they were bound separately into one volume, which is the third volume about Les Misérables that we have in our collection. And one of the most interesting documents in this series is the earliest plan of the book, which Victor Hugo wrote on the verse of an envelope. And that envelope makes it possible to date this initial plan, April 1845, at the earliest.
So I'll show you. Right, this is the verse of the envelope and the initial plan goes ‘Story of a saint, of a man, of a woman and of a doll’. So this shows us that Victor Hugo had a clear idea of the characters, of the novel at this stage, at the very beginning. And, of course, it's easy for us to identify each of the characters as Jean Val Jean, Marius, Fantine, Cosette, maybe. But of course, this tells us nothing of how he was planning to connect the four different stories to make one novel. So this is one first series of preparatory documents for Les Misérables.
The second series are the notebooks which Victor Hugo wrote when he was in exile in Guernsey, when he started working on the novel again, from May 1860 to September 1861, and there was an interruption of 12 years since the revolution of 1848 when Victor Hugo had to leave France. And in these notebooks, when he starts working again on the manuscripts, he wrote fragments, or short sentences only. And they are preparing his work on the final chapters of the novel, bridging the gap between what he had already written and what was still to be done. And there's an example of one of these notebooks, as I was saying, he finished writing the manuscript in Waterloo and he drew in this notebook the statue of the Lion of Waterloo on the night of May the 28th to May the 29th 1860, I think. And this is where he writes that on the 29th he starts writing Les Misérables again.
But, of course, the most interesting document of all is the manuscript itself. And, as I have said, Hugo wrote the text between 1845 and 1861, spending five years of actual work on it, before entering his exile from France.
So five years of actual work. It's interesting to remember that it took him one year to write Notre Dame de Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a year and a half to write Les Travailleurs de la Mer, Toilers of the Sea. So writing Les Misérables may have been a longer and more complex task for him, as personal and historical events occurred, which had a great impact on both his life and his work.
So, if we have a closer look at the manuscript. First, the first period of the writing, when he starts writing in Paris, until February the 21st 1848. At that time, the novel that is entitled Jean Trejean, which was Jean Valjean's initial name. The novel is not Les Misérables yet, but Jean Trejean. That's what the note of October 1847 says. I quote, ‘Yesterday I took up Jean Trejean again. I have my dinner at 9 so I can have a longer day of work and I will go on like this for at least two months to continue Jean Trejean’.
And three months later, on December the 30th 1847, Victor Hugo signed a contract with the publishers Granduel & Grossner for the publication of the novel that was then entitled Misère, Misery. So not Les Misérables yet. And he stopped writing Misère when the 1848 revolution broke out, and this is, he wrote this down in a rather dramatic way on the manuscript when he stopped writing it, this was February the 14th 1848, ‘Here the peer of France stopped’. And he starts again writing the manuscript in 1860 (and the outcast continued) December the 30th 1860.
So for the next 12 years after 1848, Victor Hugo was in exile. First in Brussels in 1851. Then in Jersey, 1852 to 1855. And finally in Guernsey from October 1855. During this period, Victor Hugo wrote Napoleon le petit, Napoleon the little, Les Chatiments, Les Contemplations and La Legende des Siecles, which are one of his three major books of poems. But not one line on Les Misérables. However, the change from the initial title Les Misères to the final title Les Misérables, dates from this period.
On September 1853, during a séance of spiritism, the spirit of civilisation itself dictated the new title to Victor Hugo in those words, ‘Great man finished Les Misérables’. At least this is what the minutes of the table-turning séance, which have been recently republished in France, tell us.
So it was in December 1860 only, in Guernsey, at Hauteville House, that Victor Hugo started working on Les Misérables again. He had been thinking about it since May, 1860, as one of his notebooks indicates. I quote again, ’Today, December the 30th, 1860, I started writing Les Misérables again. From April to May the 12th, I read the manuscripts over again. From May the 12th to December the 30th, I spent seven months meditating about the work. So that there will be absolute unity between what I wrote 12 years ago and what I am going to write today’. And this is when he decided to change the name of Jean Vlajean, which was Jean Valjean’s second name. First it was Jean Trejean, then it was Vlajean, and finally it was Jean Valjean, as is indicated in this notebook here. This is a note of March the 20th 1861.
So, what we understand from all this is that the manuscript of Les Misérables is made up of different versions written over a very long period of time with interruptions in the process. And that division of texts, of the text into books and chapters, and the titles of the chapters, all date from the final period of work. Probably just a few weeks before the first part of the book was published. First in Brussels on March the 30th 1862, and then in Paris on April the 4th.
One of the questions raised by this very long process of writing is ‘if’ and ‘how’ the meaning of the text changed along the way. As you know, the action of the novel takes place between two historical events. The first one being Waterloo, the battle of Waterloo in 1815, marking the fall of the first empire in France and the end of the revolutionary cycle. And the second historical event in the book is the popular uprising in June 1832, which paved the way for the 1848 revolution. And Victor Hugo's ideological position evolved towards a stronger republican point of view during that period. First as a result of his opposition to Napoleon III, and then under the influence of his experience as a political exile after 1851.
Several aspects of the manuscript of Les Misérables show this evolution, especially the great part given by Victor Hugo to collective characters, groups of people, which become actors of history, such as Paris students, soldiers, gangs of thieves, masters and workers, and so on. But I will show you one edition written during the exile. In Volume 5, Book 1, Chapter 1, Victor Hugo describes the Saint-Antoine Barricade.
This is the passage on the manuscript. So on the left, on the right, is the first version of the manuscript and on the margin on the left are the additions. And of course, the additions which I have underlined in red on the slide, show that he tried to convey a much stronger presence to the barricade itself as if it was…in fact, on the manuscript we can see that the barricade tends to become like a literary myth because it becomes really strong and powerful.
So these are just a few examples of the interesting pages of the manuscript. And maybe I can move on now to a presentation of the Victor Hugo collection as a whole, which we also keep at the Bibliothèque Nationale du France. As it's been so important for the history of our literary collections of manuscripts.
Victor Hugo was very keen on preserving his manuscripts. He kept them in a trunk through his exiles in Brussels, Jersey and Guernsey. And he wrote his will on August the 31st 1881 and actually the will is kept in the Archive National in Paris, not at the Bibliothèque Nationale, but in the Archive. And he made the following decision to bequeath the manuscript in those words. ‘I donate all my manuscripts and everything that will be found, written or drawn by me to the National Library of Paris, which one day will be the library of the United States of Europe.’ I quote. Though maybe one day hopefully.
So when he died. When Victor Hugo died on May the 22nd 1885, Paul Maurice, who was the executor of his will, went to collect the manuscripts, which had remained in Guernsey, and he brought them back to Paris. And Victor Hugo’s solicitor Met Garten handed the manuscripts over to the Bibliothèque Nationale, to the no…sorry…to the literary executors first, who were preparing the posthumous publication of Victor Hugo's works. And in fact only 17 manuscripts were directly handed over to the Bibliothèque Nationale at first after Victor Hugo's death. These include the manuscripts of his major works already published at the time, including the manuscripts of Notre Dame de Paris, which title page is there. So, in fact it's bound the same way as the manuscript of Les Misérables, but I chose to show you the title page here.
These first 17 manuscripts also included the manuscript of Les Travailleurs de la Mer, L'Homme qui rit and the manuscript of Les Misérables in two volumes.
It took the next 60 years for the rest of the manuscripts to come into the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale. As the publication of the posthumous work went on, one volume after the other. The first volume was published in 1904. The 45th and last volume was published in 1952.
In the meantime, the collection evolved from 17 volumes in 1886, to 233 volumes in 1952. And today it is one of the most important literary collections kept by the manuscripts department in Paris.
But, in addition to the manuscripts, we also keep some of Victor Hugo's drawings. The other half being kept by the Maison Victor Hugo in Paris. There are more than 1,300 drawings all together. Victor Hugo would draw either in albums or on single sheets, sometimes in his notebooks as you've seen, and these drawings…so, you can see the drawings related to Les Misérables in the exhibition, and actually some of Victor Hugo's drawings are used in the production of the musical, in this set, in this production anyway.
So I chose to show you just a few examples, not of the drawings of Les Misérables, but Victor Hugo drew 37 drawings when he wrote, when he was writing Les Travailleurs de la Mer, Toilers of the Sea, and they are among probably some of his most beautiful drawings.
They have all been digitised by the Bibliothèque and they will soon be available on the Gallica website, which is the digital library of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
So, here are just a few examples. This is, it’s mainly ink on paper. This is the name, the name of the boat in Toilers of the Sea. This is plainemont. This is the octopus. And if you've read the novel, there's this very stunning passage of the fight between what Juilliard, one of the main characters of Les Travailleurs de la Mer, with the pulp, with the octopus, representing the forces of evil in nature, and this is Victor Hugo's vision of it.
Okay. So, Victor Hugo's bequest to the Bibliothèque Nationale marks a turning point in the history of our modern literary collections. Up till then, roughly speaking, manuscript collections had royal origins. Since Louis XII, who founded the first royal library at the end of the 15th century, the kings and queens of France had been gathering personal collections of religious and historical manuscripts, some of which are beautifully illuminated.
Over the centuries, these collections gradually extended beyond royal collections, as the personal libraries of some of the great men of the 17th and 18th century, such as Colbert, were acquired too by the library. And during the revolution, the nationalisation of the church property also contributed to this extension of our collections.
But it is a fact that it was only after Victor Hugo's will, after his bequest to the library, that the manuscripts of all the major authors of French literature began to be collected by the Bibliothèque Nationale.
And so I chose to give you three examples of these major collections. The first one being the Émile Zola collection. Just as Victor Hugo and probably because he wanted to imitate him, Émile Zola decided to bequeath his manuscripts to the Bibliothèque Nationale.
In 1904, after his death, his widow handed over the manuscripts of the Rougon-Macquart series. His novel on, I quote, ‘The natural and social history of the family under the second empire’. The collection includes 91 volumes altogether, including not only the autographed manuscripts of the novels, but also, and this was in fact rather new at the time, all the documents, notes, fragments, and sketches and plans that write in preparation of the novel.
He had a scientific approach to writing. It was called the Admitted Naturalist and the manuscripts reflect this method. In particular, drew his inspiration from the science of his age and especially the discoveries of the laws of heredity about which he had read in several books by contemporary scientists such as P Luca. And one of the most interesting documents is the family tree of the Rougon-Macquart family which, Zola, corrected, of course, as the work went on.
In fact the, the, the family tree was published in 1878 at the beginning of Une Page d'amour, which is one of the novels of the Rougon-Macquart series. But Zola said that he had conceived it as soon as 1868, when he first began to write the series. So the first remark we can make on this document is that shows us, it's, actually it's not very visible on the manuscript, but the name of the family changed on the way, because it's not the first, but the as is indicated here.
And you can see, also that some characters are crossed out. Like, I think, but others are added as the product evolves, like eldest son of. And, what's interesting too is that planned for each of his characters, a specific law of heredity in the own terms of Dr Persettikopf.
For example Émile Zola uses the term elección which is a difficult one to translate. But I think its prepotency, which means the ability of one parent to transmit more genetic characteristics to its child than the other parent, and in this case it's the mother.
So, all through the 20th century, the Bibliothèque Nationale continued to acquire modern and contemporary manuscripts, though the specific acquisition policy developed rather slowly, in fact often, just as things came up freely and in an organised way.
The case of the Gustave Flaubert collection is a good example of this. After Gustave Flaubert’s death his papers came into the hands of his niece Caroline Fontainebleau. In 1914, she decided to donate the manuscripts to three different libraries in France.
To the Bibliothèque Nationale, she donated the manuscripts of Salammbô and Trois Contes, Three Tales. To the Rouen City Library she donated the manuscripts of Madam Bovary and Bouvard et Pécuchet, and to the Bibliothèque Historique de la ville de Paris she donated the final version of L'Éducation Sentimentale.
And it was only after her death in 1931, that the Bibliothèque Nationale continued to acquire other manuscripts, mainly from private collectors and in public sale auctions in 1956, 1959 and 1975.
So today the Gustave Flaubert collection is entirely digitised too and available online on the Gallica website. And along with the manuscript of Madame Bovary which is also being digitised by the Bibliothèque de Rouen. This collection is really the most extensive online research tool on Flaubert's manuscripts. So what do they tell us about Gustave Flaubert's method of writing?
I will show you examples of the manuscript of Trois Contes, Three Tales. It was, the book was published in 1877. And it is made up of three stories, Un Coeur Simples, Herodias and La légende de Saint-Julien l'hospitalier. And the first documents that Flaubert wrote were reading notes to prepare the stories, the novel, the tales.
Such as these ones for La légende de Saint-Julien l'hospitalier. They are about hunting, of course, and the reference comes from Jacques du Fouilloux's book on hunting entitled La Venarie, which was a classic that had been regularly reissued since its first publication at the end of the 16th century, and the reference is written there too, for you, at the top right hand corner of the page. And, Flaubert also drew drawings of deer horns on the, on this page, which is a very nice one.
After the reading notes, Flaubert would write a summary or script of the story. And this is the script for, in three parts. You can see the numbers on the page for Herodias. And after this comes the first draft of the, of the text. And Flaubert would begin by writing the first chapter, in as many versions as needed, and sometimes up to six or seven, seven versions have been preserved. And then, and then only, he moved on to the second chapter and so on till the end of the story.
So this is, I have chosen six or seven different beginnings for the first draft of chapter two of Herodias. But and Flaubert tried the first sentence six or seven times before finding the final version on the fair copy of the manuscript.
So this is version one, two, three, four, five, six. And the fair copy with hardly no corrections at all. So they are all bound up in the same manuscript, in the same volume, one after the other. Some passages seem to have been hard work, and some pages have so many corrections, additions that the text, that the manuscript literally looks like magma on paper. And this is just one of the numerous examples. In fact, most of the manuscripts by Flaubert are as dense, as intense as this one.
This is a page of the first draft for La légende de Saint-Julien l'hospitalier. Page 429. In fact they have a very visual beauty these, Flaubert's manuscripts, I think.
Okay, and the acquisition of Marcel Proust collection in 1962 marks another important turning point in the history of manuscript collections at the BNF. The manuscripts of Proust were bought from Proust's niece as they were just about to be sold to an American institution in 1962.
There were 177 notebooks then. Range, or volumes, ranging from notebooks to corrected proofs. So that the whole process of writing A la recherche du temps perdus can be traced.
I'm going to show you two notebooks and they are part of the 75 notebooks that we keep in the collection in Paris, which Proust used to write the first draft of his text. And they are good examples of how Proust worked. And you will see in a totally different manner from Zola or Flaubert. He did not write the text in the order of the chapters in this novel, following a preconceived plan. Instead, he wrote episodes or passages related to a certain theme or character, but with no narrative organisation at that point.
So, a good example is the notebook, 1914 notebook, for Albertine Disparue, The Fugitive, which is one of the volumes of A la recherche du temps perdus. And, this is the beginning of the notebook and it's about Monsieur de Charlus there. So Proust used the double page of the notebook, beginning on the right page and keeping the left for the editions.
And, so right, the edition is there. It's not the case on that page, but you'll see it later on. The order of the text can be very complex to retrace as the editions tend to multiply, not only on the left page but also in the margins and sometimes on the famous paperole. Paperole can't be translated into English. It's basically they are pieces of paper on which, which Proust would cut and paste on which he would write the editions and sometimes he would have to fold the paperole several times to make it fit the size of the notebook.
So this is one paperole with a drawing on the verso. So this is the paperole closed, folded back into the notebook, and it unfolds like this.
Another aspect of Proust's system or method of writing can be found in this notebook. As he was not writing an organised narrative of the story, he had to establish cross-references, I think that's the word, to link different passages which were sometimes scattered in different notebooks. So he could keep track of the story when he sat down to work on the fair copy of the manuscript.
A good example of this is when Albertine dies and the narrator describes the psychological effects of pain on him. So this is the passage. And he starts to write the passage on page 29 here. And then he writes a few lines and then he moves on to another idea. But, at some point, he realises that he will have to develop the episode of Albertine's death. But in the meantime, the double page has been filled so the only solution is to insert a cross-reference mark.
So this is the first passage and the cross-reference mark is here with the latin word ‘moss’ which means ‘death’ written in red capital letters. And with a note that says, going to be … So, this is moss. This is to be inserted on the page beginning 31 pages after and maybe used as beginning for all that follows the news of her death. That's the translation. And in fact if you go 31 pages after this one, you find the edition with the cross-reference word again ‘moss’ and a note so that he can remember what it is all about. ‘Moss. This is to be inserted on the page beneath 31 pages before’, and so on.
So logically, the next step in the process was the fair copy of the manuscript, in which Marcel Proust put the fragments all together, which was scattered in the different notebooks. And for this he used another series of notebooks, 20 of which have been preserved in the collection. In fact, they are the third copies but they are the most complex of all of Proust’s notebooks because the paperole, the additions, tend to proliferate and become bigger and bigger. And this is so, because at that point of the manuscript, Proust is giving the text its final shape and needs as much space as possible to let the sentences develop.
So let's have a look at the fair copy of the last volume of A la recherche du temps perdus regained. And as you open the manuscript, this is page 66. For example, the notebook looks like an accumulation of layers of paper. In fact it’s several paperole curtains pasted together on this page.
So, one of these paperole is nearly two metres long. So, this is the original size of the notebook and the paperole is fixed on the lower side of the page and unfolds down. And it is made up of several pieces of paper pasted together. But, ok, you can see that there is a smaller third paperole on this page, fixed on the right side of the page there. And you can see the other longer unfolds down but also in three on the side like this.
I don't know if this looks really spectacular, but I can tell you for having shown the original manuscripts to researchers or visitors or groups of students in Paris that they're really, really spectacular and complex to manipulate and especially when you have to fold back the paperole into the notebook.
So my conclusion about Proust is that there is a perfect analogy between the style of his writing, the very long sentences for which he’s famous and the structure of the manuscripts, which tend to become literally unstoppable and never ending objects.
So all the examples I have shown you, and I'm reaching the end of my presentation, and many more, in our collections, whether they were donated to the benefit or purchased by the Bibliothèque, have contributed to build a collection of what could be called probably the largest museum of French literature in the world, I think.
And today, apart from the manuscripts of poets and playwrights, we collect the manuscripts of philosophers, like Michel Foucault, which is one of our most recent acquisition, but also anthropologists like Lévi-Strauss, semiotics like Roulon Barthes, and many others.
And the finding aids and the bibliographic records of these collections can be found online in the online catalogue http://www.bnf.fr/en/collections_and_services/online_catalogs. That's the second link on the page. And this is an illustrated catalogue, in fact, because there is a link from the bibliographic record to the digitised image of the manuscript. And I gave you the link to the Gallica website, which is the digital library of the BNF where all these collections, the Victor Hugo, the Flaubert, the Zola, the Proust collections are accessible online.
Thankyou very much for your attention.
'manuscripts, first drafts and fragments can help us to understand how a writer writes his books'
– Guillaume Fau
About this video
Watch Guillaume Fau, Chief Heritage Curator at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, as he discusses the significance of the bequest made by Victor Hugo to the National Library of France in 1881. Hugo's gift of his entire collection of personal papers and manuscripts began a hugely important trend of donated author archives that continues today.
It was thanks to Hugo’s bequest that we were able to feature the original manuscript of the famous novel Les Misérables in our 2014 exhibition, Victor Hugo: Les Misérables - From Page to Stage. The manuscript was the standout amongst many other rare items brought to Melbourne from the rich collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and other French institutions.
In his talk, Guillaume explains how draft manuscripts can help us to understand the writing process. He also shares how Victor Hugo’s bequest inspired other writers to posthumously donate their works to what has become the largest museum of French literarure in the world. You can view some of this content on the Bibliothèque nationale de France website and its Gallica digital library.
Guillaume Fau is the Chief Heritage Curator, Manuscripts Department, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.