Bulletin of the European Association
of Sinological Librarians
BEASL Number 10
Plans for a tour of sinological
libraries in France
Bibiothèque national de France
|| Classical Studies || Modern Studies
|| University Libraries || City Libraries
As may be expected in such a highly centralised country, most of the
sinological collections in France are kept in Paris, although a few very
interesting ones do exist in villes de province and should not deserve
to be left aside during a sinological trip to France. While in Paris, though,
it would take you some time to get a general idea of the Chinese book holdings
in town: they are quite scattered, as many unrelated institutions and libraries
have a Chinese book department.
1/ Bibliothèque nationale de France
Most famous are the holdings of the Bibliothèque nationale
de France (BNF). The Département des manuscrits, division
orientale, does not only hold Chinese manuscripts (i.e. the part of
the Dunhuang manuscript collection brought back by Paul Pelliot in 1910),
but also old xylographic books inherited from the Bibliothèque
du Roi de France (with fine Qing dynasty imperial press editions) and
modern studies and reprints about imperial China. The catalogue of the
Dunhuang manuscripts has been completed (vol. 2 is presently not available).
A catalogue of the printed books, by Maurice Courant, has also been published;
it is quite old and outdated now, and a new computerised catalogue is not
to be expected before the next century.
Even after the relocation of the BNF to its new building, the Département
des manuscrits will remain in its present location (58 rue de Richelieu,
2nd arrondissement=arrt). The new BNF (quai de Tolbiac, 13th arrt)
will also be housing Chinese books, but these will mainly comprise works
on modern language and literature.
Note that access to the collection of the Département des
manuscrits, division orientale and to the rez-de-jardin (researchers
level of the new building; to be opened in 1998) is restricted: to get
in you have to be a postgraduate student or prove that you are involved
in a research project. The ordinary reader level (haut-de-jardin)
in the new building is already open for visitors.
2/ Classical studies
A student on classical China should visit first the Bibliothèque
de l'Institut des hautes études chinoises (IHEC) du Collège
de France, 54 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, 5th arrt. This building also
houses the Chinese collections of the Société asiatique,
who inherited Paul Demiéville's books. The IHEC library is one of
the most comprehensive in France for studies on imperial China. Although
not completed yet, its catalogue has been accessible on the Web since 1995
(check the EASL homepage). A printed catalogue of its congshu has
also been published a few years ago by Françoise Wang.
Other Parisian libraries that are of great interest: the École
française d'Extrême-Orient, (EFEO, 22 av. du Président-Wilson,
16th arrt) has an important collection of Chinese books and rubbings, as
well as the nearby Musée des arts asiatiques-Guimet (6 place
d'Iéna, 16th arrt), whose library is specialised in Chinese art,
archaeology and religion (mainly Buddhism). The ancient book section of
the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire des langues orientales
(also nicknamed as Langues'O; 4 rue de Lille, 7th arrt) has a lot
of 19th century editions and a few interesting local gazetteers. Its Japanese
collections are quite big and it also holds rare Korean prints. In Chantilly,
near Paris (30 min. by train), the Jesuits-owned Bibliothèque
des Fontaines welcomes visitors in the nice surroundings of a small
castle. It holds some part of the Jesuits holdings (about 4000 items) and
of the collection brought from China by André d'Hormon (more than
3000 titles, mostly books from late Qing to the 1950s; catalogue by Lin
Shujuan). Jesuit archives proper are now at the Archives des Jésuites
(at Vanves, very near Paris, rue Raymond Marcheron) and other missionary
materials are also kept at the Bibliothèque des missions étrangères
in Paris (rue de Babylone, 7th arrt). Last, the small library of the Musée
Kwok-On in Paris (57 rue du Théâtre, 15th arrt), specialised
in traditional Chinese theatre and folklore, is unfortunately closed to
the public for the moment, due to financial problems.
3/ Modern studies
The main library for modern studies is the Centre de recherche et
de documentation sur la Chine contemporaine in Paris (widely known
as Centre Chine, now in the same building as EFEO, 22 av. du Président-Wilson).
It has the biggest collection of books and serials about modern and contemporary
China in France. Another good collection of serials (and books, mostly
about literature) is in the library of Langues'O (published catalogue
by Eric Trombert). Recently, however, space problems in both institutions
have made access to serials rather difficult.
A researcher on modern China should include a trip out of Paris to Lyon.
The Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (30 bd Vivier-Merle,
Lyon, 3rd arrt) holds over 5000 books and documents formerly held at the
Institut franco-chinois. Many were left there by Chinese students
who stayed in Lyon from 1921 to 1946: it has a lot of rare minguo
period books (published catalogue by Jean-Louis Boully). The collection
has been enriched by recent purchases, as well as gifts from veteran China-watcher
Général Guillermaz and others. Its catalogue should be available
very soon at the library's Web server. Another centre with documentary
resources about modern China in Lyon is the Institut d'Asie orientale
(14 av. Berthelot, Lyon, 7th arrt), where it is advised to make an appointment
previous to your visit.
4/ University libraries
The main university library, again, is the Langues'O library.
But other universities in Paris (Paris VII, Paris VIII, Paris X) or outside
(Bordeaux II, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon III) also hold Chinese collections,
some of them of considerable size.
Besides, specialised research units make specific documentary resources
available, like the Centre de recherches sur les langues de l'Asie orientale
(on linguistics, 22 av. du Président-Wilson, Paris 16th arrt), the
Daozang project (on taoism, same address), or the Chinese science
research group (housed at the IHEC). Their access is sometimes restricted,
but will never pose a problem with an appointment.
5/ City libraries
Besides the Lyon library, other bibliothèques municipales
hold interesting and sometimes rare Chinese books: the library of Lille,
for instance, inherited 500 Chinese books (mostly Ming and Qing editions,
catalogue by Sun Lili and Anne-Marie Poncet) and 300 Japanese books (no
catalogue yet) from Léon de Rosny, first teacher of Japanese at
Langues'O at the end of the 19th century. Likewise the library
of Troyes inherited books and photographs from Victor Collin de Plancy
(1853-1922), a diplomat and traveller in China and Korea. On the modern
side, the Bibliothèque Jean-Pierre Melville, a public library
in the Paris Chinatown district, is currently building a collection on
modern Chinese fiction.