Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
July 3, 1996
Microfilmed Layfayette Papers Now Available at Library of Congress
A microfilm edition of the papers of the Marquis de Lafayette at the Chateau La Grange in Courpalay, France, has been produced by the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress and is now available for use in the division's reading room. As the result of an agreement between Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, and Count Ren de Chambrun, a Lafayette descendant and owner of La Grange, a team of Library staff members led by Dr. James H. Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division, began organizing and filming the Lafayette Papers in the summer of 1995. Work at La Grange continued through the fall and was completed in February 1996. The microfilming project was underwritten by an endowment established at the Library in 1925 by James B. Wilbur to reproduce archival sources on American history housed in foreign repositories.
The 64 reels of film contain approximately 25,000 items relating primarily to the period between the 1780s and the 1830s on topics such as Lafayette's youth and marriage to Marie Adrienne Franoise de Noailles, his participation in the American and French revolutions, and his imprisonment in Prussia and Austria from 1792 to 1797. Correspondence, memoirs, speeches, and other family papers richly document Lafayette's political and domestic life after his return to France in 1799 until his death in 1834 and include material pertaining to significant events in French history from that era, including the Consulate and Empire period, the Restoration, and the July Revolution of 1830.
Among the many noteworthy items is a secret code handwritten by Lafayette that he and George Washington used during the American Revolution. A draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man introduced by Lafayette in the French National Assembly on July 11, 1789, bears his handwritten corrections. The collection also includes papers related to Lafayette's wife, children, and several of his prominent descendants. Lafayette's wife, Adrienne, was also imprisoned during the Revolution, and one of her letters was smuggled to him in his cell at Olmtz in the cover of a volume of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle. She wrote, "I am on my way to you. That hope alone gave me a renewed sense of life when I was almost at the foot of the scaffold." Her letter, as well as the Buffon volume, are part of the collection.
The papers are owned by the Fondation Jose et Ren de Chambrun established by the Count and Countess de Chambrun to administer the Chateau La Grange and other material documenting their family's distinguished heritage.
Researchers may visit the Manuscript Reading Room in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., to consult the microfilm copy. The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The finding aid prepared by the Library's archivists describing the material is based on the folder headings created by the Count de Chambrun when he organized his family's papers. This guide is included in the microfilm edition, and a paper copy is available in the reading room as well. It will be accessible online in the near future on the Internet along with guides to other manuscript collections in the division.
Because of the terms of the agreement with the Count, the microfilm edition of the Lafayette papers is not available on interlibrary loan, nor may copies be purchased from the Library's Photoduplication Service.
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