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French Language & Literature: Primary Sources

A guide to resources for the study of the French language and literatures in French.

What are primary sources?

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning your topic. Often these materials are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but they can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.

In the humanities, primary sources are most often "original works--diaries, letters, manuscripts, images, films, film scripts, recordings, and musical scores created by writers, artists, composers, and so on. Those sources provide data--the words, images, and sounds that you use as evidence to support your reasons. Data can also be objects: coins, clothing, tools, and other artifacts from the period or belonging to a person you're studying." (Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations)

Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in their original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in print or digital format. At Rutgers, you will find primary source material in most of our libraries, however most of it is held in Special Collections and University Archives (SC/UA) at Alexander Library. Many, but not all of their items are in the library catalog.

You can search for SC/UA materials by doing either a basic (keyword) or advanced search, then using the filters on the left-hand side of the page to limit by Library (Special Collections-University Archives) and by Resource Type (books, maps, etc.). Please note that archival collections may be found under "manuscripts," "archival collections," and "other" (select all three checkboxes). See the Special Collections and University Archives website for access to collections in the form of archival finding aids.

National Libraries, Portals and Collections

Galileo

Discovery Tools for Archives

Thematic, Format or Period Specific Digital Libraries

Decorated initial from Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job

  • 18thConnect: Eighteenth-Century Scholarship Online (Open Access)
  • Alexander Street Press: audiovisual material in a broad range of disciplines; includes American History in Video, Asian Film Online, Ethnographic Video Online and Filmakers Library, among others (netID required)
  • EUscreen: free access to videos, stills, texts and audio from European broadcasters and audiovisual archives. (Open Access)
  • French Revolution Digital Archive: includes the Archives parlementaires and the Images de la Revolution française. A multi-year collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). (Open Access)
  • Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA): MESA vets freely-available digital objects in medieval studies and aggregates metadata about them in a faceted search interface. The objects themselves are accessible via links to the websites that have contributed them. (Open Access)
  • Met Opera on Demand: 500 full-length Met performances. All videos include English subtitles, and recent HD videos include subtitles in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and/or Swedish. (nedID required)
  • NINES: Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online (Open Access)
  • NYPL Digital Collections: 800,000 drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books and more from the New York Public Library's holdings. (Open Access)
  • Smithsonian Global Sound: Thousands of streaming audio recordings of world music as well as American folk, blues, bluegrass, jazz and spoken word. (netID required)

Figurated initial from Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job

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