Voici Gallica

Cinéma Pathé next door to the Théatre des Variétés, boulevard Montmartre, 1913, from Gallica (http://gallica2.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6927366c). Note the poster for Rigadin Napoleon, starring Charles Prince.

Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Established in 1997, today it contains just under one million digital documents, including 150,000 monographs (over 90,000 of which are word-searchable), 675,000 pages from over 4,000 periodicals, over 115,000 images, 9,000 maps, 1,000 sound recordings, 5,500 manuscripts and 2,300 music scores. Content comes both from the BnF and a range of partner libraries. It is unquestionably one of the outstanding digital resources worldwide, and one which anyone with a serious interest in researching silent cinema will want to use, however limited their French might be.

To begin with, Gallica is reasonably Anglo-friendly. There is an English language option (plus Spanish and Portuguese), with basic user guidelines, though introductory texts remain in French. The front page includes the main Search option and link to Advanced Search. This offers a thorough range of options, allowing you to refine searches by title, author, text, date, language, broad subject, document type and access type (i.e. free versus paid-for content). Look also for the link to Themes, providing a handy way into what can a bit bewildering at first on account of its sheer size.

Also linked from the front page is the newspaper section. As far as I can see, the main front page search option does not cover the newspaper holdings, so you will want to follow this link to discover the digital library for such key titles as Le Figaro, L’Humanité, Le Temps, La Croix and many more (for film journals see below). Searching is by periodical title – so, for example, if you select Le Figaro, you are presented with a table of years, from 1826-1942, and you can either click on one of those years and browse a calendar to get to a specific day’s edition, or else use the search option to investigate all titles. Search for ‘cinematographe’, and this is what you’ll see:

One you have identified a newspaper that you are interested in, you can add it to you digital collection (an option provided for registered users), view the plain text, or view the scanned document. When you click on the document, check on the left-hand side for the page number where the search term you have used can be found, because the full digitised newspaper will have turned up, and it is necessary either to scroll through page by page or you can type in a number and go direct to the desired page. Your search term will be highlighted in yellow on the page. You can download pages as PDFs, print them, email the refernece to yourself, or even listen to the citation for the selected newspaper – in French, of course. There are also full screen and zoom options, as well as a range of other options to assist your searching and browsing.

There is much more to Gallica than simply newspapers. As said the main search option on the front page covers everything else, which means chiefly digitised books, manuscripts, serials and images. Content ranges from the ancient to the recent (more recent texts are only available under subscription through external providers), and there is extensive material that relates to silent cinema. Searching on ‘cinematographe’ yields 1,318 hits, ‘melies’ brings up 280 hits, ‘pathe’ 2,128, and ‘gaumont’ 957. Note the option to refine searches given on the left-hand column; so, for example, the ‘gaumont’ search can be narrowed to searches by periodical (537), book (413) or image (7), as well as by author, date, theme and language. Remember also when searching for phrases to put the words in quotation marks for more accurate results. Much of it is books and serials, but you can dig up treasures such as the photograph of a Montmatre Pathé cinema above or this Max Linder scenario complete with sample film strip:

Scenario with filmstrip for Les Débuts de Max Linder au cinématographe (1912), from Gallica (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6404152z)

Also to be found through the main search option are a number of film journals from the silent era. There is no simple way of identifying these, so (with the help of some Bioscopists) here’s a listing of journals that I’ve managed to locate:

Given the scarcity of silent era film journals online generally, this is an absolute treasure trove all by itself. Most important among them is Cinéa, which was the focal point for intellectual debate on film culture in France at this time.

Raquel Meller in Carmen, front cover of Cinéa, 15 November 1926, from Gallica (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5739086t.vocal.f1.langEN)

Gallica is an amazing resource, and one which has been in the news recently. It has been billed for some while now as France’s answer to Google Books, and it was announced this week that France is making further moves to counter the Anglo-Saxon hegemony by developing a still more extensive online portal, based on Gallica, by establishing deals with publishers an private companies (including Google?) to build up all-encompassing French digital library. Last month Nicolas Sarkozy announced that €750 million would be allocated for the ongoing digitisation of France’s libraries, specifically to counter the threat represented by Google’s plans for extensive digitisation of out-of-copyright works (Google Books is currently ten times the size of Gallica). Gallica will be the outlet for this digital activity, as will the European digital library, Europeana (which will be the subject of Bioscope post some day soon). At any rate, we are all going to be the beneficiaries – all the more so if we can only brush up on our French.

I’ve added a new category to the options of the right-hand side of the Bioscope, ‘digitised journals’, and I’ll go back over the blog and mark all those posts that have covered digitised newspapers and journals under this category as a reference aid. And look out soon for a post which will round up newspaper digitisation projects around the world which are relevant to our area.

Now go explore.

6 responses

  1. Luke – A bit of digging does unearth at least one film/variety trade title: “Les Spectacles” from Northern France. The holding includes editions dating from 1923-1931.

  2. Well spotted – here’s the link to it:
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32871596z/date.r=.langEN

    Using Advanced Search, then searching under Cinema in the title field and Periodicals, or under Arts and Entertainment (which I should have thought to do beforehand), I’ve found these too:

    Paris-cinéma (two issues from 1924)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32832311m/date.r=.langEN

    Le Travail manuel, les sciences expérimentales et le cinéma à l’école (three issues from 1922)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32879986p/date.r=.langEN

    Cinéma : annuaire de la projection fixe et animée (seems to be annual volumes 1911-1914 of what was originally a photography journal)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32742366x/date.r=.langEN

    La Scène (seven issues from 1921)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32865394g/date.r=.langEN

    Revue scientifique et technique de l’industrie cinématographique et des industries qui s’y rattachent : organe mensuel – 1912-1914 (one issue 1913-14)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32861422x/date.r=.langEN

    Cinéa (81 issues from 1926)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32742344m/date.r=.langEN

    Ciné-schola. Bulletin de la Ligue pour l’enseignement par la cinématographie (two issues from 1922)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32742328c/date.r=.langEN

    Any more (for the silent era , that is)?

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