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Dreyfus Affair in the Making of Modern France

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About this Collection

Dreyfus Affair

Introduction: The Dreyfus Affair in the Making of Modern France

The reproduction and republication on microfilm of materials from the Dreyfus Collection at the Harvard College Library comes at a particularly timely moment in Dreyfus scholarship. Nineteen ninety-four, which marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Affair, witnessed a flurry of activity and debate. Dozens of publications appeared; major exhibitions and colloquia were held; and an international scholarly society was established to oversee upcoming commemorations--of Zolas "Jaccuse" and Jaurèss Les Preuves--and to promote research and discussion on a long-term basis1 For its part, the Harvard College Library (the Judaica Division and The Houghton Library) opened its Dreyfus Collection to a broad public audience with an exhibition and symposium: The Dreyfus Affair and the Self-Fashioning of Modern France. These many activities culminate a century of sustained attention to the Dreyfus Affair. They testify to its enduring capacity to engage the interest, when it does not arouse the passions, of so many of those who fall into its grip. By making a wealth of rare and fragile primary materials widely available to students and scholars around the world, the present publication opens the door to the next century of study devoted to this increasingly pertinent moment in history.

The Dreyfus Collection of the Harvard College Library

The greater part of the manuscripts, books, pamphlets, illustrated periodicals, newspaper clippings, broadsides, posters, post cards, photographs, games and novelties that comprise Harvards Dreyfus Collection was assembled by Boston attorney and book collector Lee M. Friedman and entered The Houghton Library in 1957. Income from the Lee M. Friedman Endowment Fund for Judaica, established in the College Library by bequest of Mr. Friedman, subsequently permitted the acquisition of Leon Lipschutzs collection of books, pamphlets and ephemera relating to the Affair as well as a large number of additional manuscripts.2 Today, the Collection constitutes one of the most comprehensive sources of Dreyfusiana in the world. Excluding duplicate items identified by the Editor, all available monographic and pamphlet titles have been reproduced on microfilm.

While the Collection includes a number of materials dating from the 1880s and early 1890s, and many others that appeared between 1909 and 1961, its strength lies in the period contemporary to the Affair itself. The three most intense years--1898 to 1900--saw the greatest production, and a correspondingly high proportion of materials in the Collection dates from this time: approximately eighty-five percent of the books and pamphlets and virtually all of the manuscripts and ephemera. With this said, the entire period of the Affair is well represented, beginning with the fall of 1894, when Dreyfus was arrested, to 1908, the year of the transfer of Zolas ashes and the Pantheon Trial.

Most of the printed materials were produced in France and are in French, and all of the manuscripts are in French.3 Indicative of the broad international attention given the event, some of the books, pamphlets, illustrated periodicals, post cards and other items were produced elsewhere in Europe or in North or South America. They appear in the language of their country of origin, principally in English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch or Swedish.

The Collection contains a high percentage of the total number of titles listed in the Desachy bibliography, the reference standard for books and pamphlets bearing upon the Affair through 1904.4 These include the principal and most notable independent publications to appear in conjunction with the Affair along with hundreds of other, often little-known works. Until now, famous and obscure documents alike have been difficult to access. With few exceptions, these publications have never before been reissued, and the small number of libraries worldwide that possess some portion of them are becoming increasingly reluctant to allow them to circulate due to their fragile condition.

The independently published stenographic transcripts of all of the major trials will be found here, as well as all, or virtually all, the books and pamphlets written by the principal figures: Bernard Lazare, Joseph Reinach, Georges Clemenceau, Maurice Barrès, Emile Zola, Jean Jaurès, Alfred Dreyfus, Yves Guyot, Ferdinand Brunetière, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, Francis de Pressensé, Emile Duclaux, Abbé Ludovic Trarieux, Louis Havet, Jules Lemaître, Jean Ajalbert, and others. If we associate many of these names with the pro-Dreyfus campaign, the reason is simple: while anti-Dreyfusards overwhelmingly dominated the popular press, Dreyfusards carried the day on the field of ledition, of independent publishing. Separately issued publications ranging in size from several-page pamphlets to several-hundred-page studies and essays lent themselves far better to the painstaking pursuit of Truth and Justice than the brief, sensational articles that became the trademark of so much of the daily press. Yet they could hardly compete with the newspapers, which could also follow events as they unfolded day by day. As a result, many of these books and pamphlets sold poorly and failed to galvanize public opinion on a massive scale in the way that the papers did.

Some of the most striking and often notorious images of the Dreyfus Affair have become familiar to a broader public thanks to nearly a dozen exhibitions held over the past decade. The Harvard Collection contains all of the famous icons, along with many hundreds of other images rarely seen by non-specialists. Produced on both sides of the fence, these broadsides, posters, illustrated magazines, albums of drawings and lithographs, photographic portraits, snapshots, postcards, games and novelties contributed no less than the written word to the Affair. Unsurprisingly, these visual materials also pose serious preservation problems. Many are printed on the same highly acidic, poor-quality paper used for the majority of the books and pamphlets. Others, such as original photographs or color washes, are extremely vulnerable to light. Virtually all are ill-constituted to withstand changes in climate or even moderate user handling.

The abundant production of iconographic materials was due in part to the newness of their media. That photography was just becoming popularized can be seen in the many small photographic portraits mounted on paperboard backings that were distributed in society rather like calling cards or in the reproduced snapshots from the Rennes trial--or even in spoofs like Les mensonges de la photographie, which availed itself of photographic tricks in order to feature famous Dreyfusard-anti-Dreyfusard pairs of enemies in amicable embrace. Picture postcards, too, began as something of a novelty and quickly rose to the height of fashion. Cards of all sorts--depicting scenes from the Affair, featuring caricatures or photos of important figures, popularizing Devils Island or the bordereau, expressing hatred or support--circulated freely and widely both locally and internationally. Prominent artists created special limited collectors editions. In fact, so popular and so sought-after were these cards that a descriptive catalogue devoted exclusively to postcards relating to the Dreyfus Affair was published at the time.5

Most readily associated with the Affair, especially in the United States, is the host of acerbic, anti-Semitic drawings. Some, like the ones by Forain and Caran dAche that appeared in the anti-Dreyfusard weekly Psst!, were well known to the public of the day and no doubt highly influential. Can the same be said of the shockingly vulgar broadsides, posters, and paper toys produced by the independent publisher Léon Hayard?6 Or were these limited to fringe, extremist elements in French society, as is often claimed? Perhaps future scholars will determine where the masses--sometimes the mob--ended and the fringe began.

The Microfilm

The merging of the Friedman and Lipschutz collections at the Harvard College Library resulted in a large number of duplicate books and pamphlets. Every effort has been made to omit duplicates deemed by the editor to make no significant independent contribution to the microfilm publication. Where the Collection contained two copies of the same edition of a printed work, the copy that was in better physical condition, or was judged likely to yield the better photographic image, was selected for filming. Where one of two copies of a work contained an inscription, a noteworthy autograph signature, or some other significant marker, it was selected to be photographed. Generally, books and pamphlets bound in multi-title volumes were selected over unbound copies preserved in individual cases, because of their superior condition. Copies printed on holland paper were preferred to those printed on ordinary paper, again because of their superior condition and greater resistance.

In a certain number of cases, a particular feature of a duplicate copy of a work was judged to be worth noting in the guide but did not constitute sufficient grounds for the reproduction of the entire work. In this permanent guide to the Dreyfus Collection, a special Appendix lists these duplicates under the Harvard College Librarys call numbers along with a brief note indicating the particular feature in question. Particular features include inscriptions, variations in covers, wrappers and title pages, different printings, and different editions (with minimal variations).

All materials may be located in this printed guide with the aid of the author/title main entry listings. These provide a concise bibliographic citation for the item, as based on the MARC records entered in the RLIN data base: author or title main entry; place of publication; publishing information; date of publication; and collation statement. Each citation carries the corresponding RLIN record number as well as the corresponding microfilm reel and item number for the reproduction.

The order of materials in the microfilm edition roughly follows the shelf order ("call numbers") of the materials at The Houghton Library. The shelf order follows the Librarys catalogue order but makes an additional division of works according to format (quarto, folio, portfolio). Books and pamphlets in the Dreyfus Collection are catalogued in The Houghton Library by year in alphabetical order according to the authors name. Where pseudonyms are used and the authors true name is known, the true name is used and the pseudonym is indicated in brackets. Where the true name is not known, the items is catalogued according to the pseudonym, which is in brackets. Unbound items that are not books or pamphlets--including periodicals, front pages of newspapers, broadsides, posters, clippings, post cards and photographs--are contained in boxes at the end of the catalogue (*FC9.D8262.Zzx - Zzx12).

The Houghton Library catalogue cards are reproduced on film as filming targets ahead of each reproduction. These cards generally indicate the call number, the authors name, the years in which he or she lived, the title of the work, the publisher, the place and date of publication, the number of pages, whether the work includes illustrations or diagrams, the height of the work, and the acquisition number. If the work contains an inscription, if the original wrappers have been preserved, or if it is printed on special paper, this information, too, is provided.

This permanent guide to the microfilm edition of the Dreyfus Collection includes annotations to approximately sixty selected books and pamphlets. These annotations have been adapted from captions produced by the editor for the exhibition of the Harvard College Library: The Dreyfus Affair and the Self-Fashioning of Modern France, Widener Library and The Houghton Library, November 1 - December 9, 1994. They will appear in an exhibition catalogue to be published by the Judaica Division of The Harvard College Library. Criteria for selection were varied and included historical importance and interest, usefulness in illustrating the themes of the exhibition, capacity to engage the interest of visitors, graphic characteristics and size. No systematic attempt has been made to annotate all items or to annotate items according to specific criteria.


I would like to thank the following individuals for the invaluable assistance they so generously provided: Charles Berlin and Violet Gilboa, Judaica Division, Harvard College Library; Mollie Della Terza, Roger Stoddard, Leslie Morris, Thomas Amos, Susan Halpert and the Reading Room Staff, The Houghton Library; Barbara Graham, Harvard University Library Administration; Nicholas Pickwoad and Melissa Banta, Preservation Center, Harvard University Library; Yelena Korneyeva; and Kermit Westerberg, Primary Source Media.

L. Scott Lerner
Curator, The Dreyfus Affair and the Self-Fashioning of Modern France
The Harvard College Library, 1994
Assistant Professor of French and Italian, Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, PA)


1 Société Internationale dHistorie de lAffaire Dreyfus, Compte rendu de lAssemblée générale constituante du 24 juin 1995. Statuts de la Société. Rapport financier. Bulletin 1 (Paris, Fall 1995).

2 Mr. Lipschutz is well known among specialists as the author of Une bibliothèque dreyfusienne. Essai de bibliographie thématique et analytique de laffaire Dreyfus (Paris: Fasquelle, 1970).

3 Not all the manuscripts were produced in France, however. Dreyfuss letters from Devils Island and Zolas letters from England are significant cases in point.

4 Paul Desachy, Bibliographie de laffaire Dreyfus (Paris: Edouard Cornely, 1905).

5 [Xavier] Granoux, "Laffaire Dreyfus." Catalogue descriptif des cartes postales illustrées françaises et étrangères parues depuis 1894, dressé par m. Xavier Granoux (Paris: Daragon, 1903).

6 Hayard distributed more than thirty "pamphlets, broadsides, humorous songs, amusing current affairs etc." related to the Affair along with a panoply of "gags, tricks and surprises." He also participated in the production of V. Lenepveus Musée des horreurs, the series of intensely provocative, expertly hand-colored lithographs vilifying prominent Dreyfusards, Republican statesmen and Jews.