French collections

Books published in France and in other French-speaking countries form the most extensive part of the Library's foreign language collections. United Kingdom publications on French subjects are received by legal deposit, and relevant items are also bought from North America and Australia. More than 200 subscriptions to newspapers, journals, standing orders and monograph series in French supplement the collection of titles published in the UK.

As well as French language, significant subjects covered are:

  • History: A major area of interest throughout the Library's existence. Coverage of the French Revolution is particularly notable, enhanced by the deposit of the Crawford French Revolutionary Collection.
  • Politics/contemporary affairs: Includes works on the electoral system, elections, constitution, parties, key issues and biographies. French Canadian, Swiss and Belgian political situations are also represented.
  • Literature: Features complete works by important authors, critical editions, conference proceedings, modern novels, poetry and plays.
  • Cinema: Works on all periods of French cinema are acquired, from the Lumière brothers onwards.
  • Philosophy: Contemporary and more established thinkers are well represented, including psychoanalysts.
  • Brittany: Material in Breton and about Brittany has been donated on a regular basis since the early 1990s.

Bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and biographical and statistical works are bought for all the above subjects.

Non-current material and special collections

Part of the strength of our collections of French books is based on collections begun by the Library's forerunner, the Advocates Library, in the 1680s. French collecting policy was developed by the philosopher David Hume, in his post as Keeper of the Advocates Library between 1752 and 1757, when he started the practice of buying contemporary literature.

Over the centuries a number of fine collections belonging to institutions and private individuals have been donated, purchased or deposited. (For information on these and other special holdings, see the page on Special and Named Printed Collections.) In addition to the Crawford collection mentioned above, of particular note are:

Non-print collections

We subscribe to two French CD-ROMs 'Bibliographie nationale française depuis 1970' and 'Myriade: catalogue des périodiques des bibliothèques françaises', and also hold the 'Bibliothèque nationale de France catalogue général: imprimés des origines à 1970'.

Microfiche collections include: 'Inventaire des Archives nationales de Paris; Archives biographiques françaises; Catalogue de l'histoire de France de la Bibliothèque nationale; and The French Revolution research collection'.


This page gives some idea of the main areas of current purchasing. If you want to know more, or have any queries, please contact Chris Taylor at


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