March 21, 2006 EXTRA issue. This file presents an archive copy of the EXTRA issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 21, 2006.
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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(Plus, a NEW FEATURE, of FYI France: see The FRAY, immediately following, below...)
Among the sad losses at the Sorbonne, this week, appear to have been some books:
"Les cartulaires sont ceux de Saint-Leu d'Esserent, de
Saint-Christophe en Halatte, de l'abbaye de Morienval, de
Notre-Dame de Chartres, du prieuré de
Saint-Godon-sur-Loire et de Saint-Thomas d'Epernon..."
The cartulaire of Chartres!...
These appear to have been off of their Ecole des Chartes library shelves -- sent out to a digitization project, located elsewhere at the Sorbonne -- where last week someone during the CPE protest & occupation mayhem broke in, trashed the equipment, and took the books out to the rue Soufflot, and stole or maybe even burned them... Can anyone else confirm this? There appears so far to be only the following one news source: [tr. JK]
"Rare books stolen or burned"
March 21, 2006, by Bernard Gorce, La-Croix.com
[Excerpts:] "Rare religious books of great value were burned or stolen during the occupation of the Sorbonne during the night of March 10 to 11.
"It was not just hundreds of tables and chairs which were destroyed at the Sorbonne, during the night of March 10-11. The 300 people, students or other, who took over the premises also manhandled ancient works of great historical value. An initial list of books burned in-place or stolen just has been delivered to the recteur of Paris by the directeur des études of the Ecole des Chartes, Jérôme Belmon.
"The six works [above] are ecclesiastical cartularies from the end of the 19th century. More precisely, these are the records of the abbeys of the Ile-de-France, in which all their official and private law documents since the Middle Ages were entered...
"[Jérôme Belmon:]'These works could date from the 10th century, representing a very rich source for our knowledge of the Middle Ages'. Valued at 1,000 to 2,000 euros each on the rare books market, they are very rare although not unique... 'The Bibliothèque national de France holds a copy of each one', Jérôme Belmon said...
"... they left their library shelves as part of a project for digitizing cartularies... the place where they were being held was completely vandalised. Seven laptop computers there were stolen.
"In the hours which followed the evacuation of the Sorbonne by the police, many books were retrieved in the courtyard and in the nearby streets..."
Cartulaires burned in the rue Soufflot -- what a very sad image.
Here's that digitization project:
But the above story sounds like a heist, to me, not mayhem: a small bunch of very rare books of great value, plus 7 computers, all off in their own isolated room, sounds like... So an inside job, maybe, or at least something "cased in advance": in other words, somebody knew where to "smash" and what to "grab"...
So I bet they get these back. I bet, myself, that these didn't get "burned in the rue Soufflot", in fact, but will show up on some auction block somewhere. Hope I'm right.
As I said initially here, though, I have seen only this one news source, so far: better information would be much appreciated.
Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
And now for that NEW FEATURE, of FYI France: not included in the original ejournal posting above --
-- the phrase is taken from its frequent use on The WELL / the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link, http://www.well.com, where I and so many other Internauts & Internautes have learned so much of what we know, about all of these "things digital", over so many years. "The Fray" refers to the scene one might find on any urban street-corner -- some times in a children's playground, other times on a very adult & bloody battlefield -- those of us who enjoy the general discussion-brawl atmosphere, online, and in fact benefit greatly from it, prefer to think of it as a forum, or perhaps better an agora...
Selected letters, then, compliments & complaints: the "suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise & poison-pen" -- all received "gratefully", as promised over so many years now too, here on FYI France. They're not all going to appear here -- FYI France gets lots of mail -- but I'll try to include highlights and correspondence and and later postings which provide context, for the sometimes-controversial settings in which these ejournal issues have appeared.
In the case of this first issue of The FRAY, then: there have been terrible nation-wide riots, in France recently -- during the autumn of 2005, the "Crise des banlieus", and now during the spring of 2006, the crisis surrounding the "CPE / Contrat Première Embauche", government legislation proposed to remedy the prior crisis... not everyone in France agrees the remedy is worth trying, or even that its motives are pure, and there have been mass demonstrations, near-riots, and a student "occupation" of the Sorbonne... during the last of which certain "rare" volumes of the Ecole des Chartes collection disappeared from a digitization project there...
[Excerpts:] "...found some interesting anonymous blogs and flyers from students who were there and who deny such damage occurred, etc.
"I'm sure the casseurs were capable of doing damage, but my overall impression is that this has been rather gauchely (or rather, mal-a-droite-ment) manipulated by the authorities.
"The cops are occupying the building. The right thing to do would be to allow in a specialist to determine damage, and whether the books need immediate attention... It sounds as if the Government was doing to these books what it did to Cyril, the student now lying in a coma: let 'em lie there.
"Jack's posting reinforces my suspicion: these are apparently *reproductions* of the cartulaire collection... 'Des livres d'une valeur inestimable?' A rat it is smelled..."
[Excerpts:] "... cette triste affaire... je ne partage pas l'idée de Jack Kessler qu'il pourrait s'agir d'un coup 'monté' pour voler des livres et les revendre après : les bandes qui aujourd'hui agissent dans Paris en profitant de la grève des étudiants sont hélas des pauvres illétrés et sauvages qui s'en prennent à tout ce qui passe, y compris se volent et se battent entre eux. C'est assez terrible mais je ne vois pas comment ces bagarres vont cesser : il faudra du temps pour calmer..."
[Excerpts:] "Des livres brûlés à la Sorbonne ?
"Un autodafé dans le temple du savoir ! Le rêve pour la presse poids-des-mots-choc-des-photos. Le cauchemar pour les autres. Depuis la récente occupation de la Sorbonne par des anti-CPE de toutes sortes, la rumeur court, insistante : on aurait brûlé dans la cour d'honneur des livres rares pillés à la bibliothèque de la fac-symbole dans la nuit du 10 au 11 mars. Un beau cas d'école pour les rumeurologues. Info ou intox, lard ou cochon ? Qui a accrédité la rumeur avant qu'elle ne se propage à grande vitesse par le bouche à oreille ? Quelques journaux et un blog. Dans Le Figaro du 13 mars, les reporters racontent la garde montée par ceux que le rectorat appelle "des étudiants responsables" devant la grande bibliothèque du 1er étage dont la porte avait été forcée, et devant celle de l'Ecole Nationale des Chartes au 3ème..."
"Michel Melot's warning that we be careful, about the precise facts of the Sorbonne events, is a very good warning to heed. Yes those were not medieval manuscripts but modern compilations -- indexes -- of same. This in spite of hysterical press reports, now coming in from blogs [not Assouline's very good blog, above, where he himself warns of this, but many others have made such reports] etc., about 'book-burnings in the Cour d'Honneur' and so on. Not what happened... As Melot suggests, even he, in Paris and at the heart of things, finds it difficult to sort out exactly what is going on: so much the greater difficulty for the rest of us, then, who may be located much further away.
"At the same time, distance can be dispassionate: 'just the facts' would suggest simpler solutions, than some in the press & on the blogs are coming up with now, about all of this. For example, any mayhem anywhere brings out opportunists, including thieves: so it isn't necessarily the case -- in fact it seems very unlikely -- that young students, in the initial stages of their politicization, would pull off a specific invasion-style robbery or even vandalism incident. There are other candidates, too.
"Paris is a passionate place, now. As Melot also wisely warns, though, there are no political or religious objectives involved in many of those passions: for some there are, but for many there are not -- and, for all, 'il faudra du temps pour calmer'.
"We need information, but we do need it accurate. It will be some time, before 'the facts' truly emerge, about this 'cartulaires' incident and others. I just hope false accusations in the press, against demonstrators or anyone else, can be avoided pending those findings: accusations simply inflame -- Paris needs facts, now, but it also needs calm."
Which I re-posted, to a few folks and places, with the following observation of my own added:
"...Michel Melot's wise warning nevertheless still pertains: 'il faudra du temps pour calmer'. Historians will figure all of this out, someday, and in the meantime the police will give it a try... also even the politicians, maybe...
"Parts of it sound plausible, to me, although parts of it don't. But then that's what we have politicians, and police, and historians for, isn't it? I simply hope more damage doesn't get done just blindly, though: to books, to people."
[Excerpts:] "En tant que directrice de la bibliothèque de l'Ecole des chartes, je souhaite intervenir pour apporter quelques éclaircissements aux collègues, nombreux, qui ont manifesté leur préoccupation à l'égard des événements survenus en Sorbonne ces dernières semaines. Des rumeurs assez fantaisistes circulent, relayées par les medias qui n'ont, semble-t-il, pas toujours compris dans les détails les explications que nous leur avons données.
"Durant la nuit du 10 au 11 mars, alors que des locaux au sein de la Sorbonne étaient occupés par des étudiants, des individus se sont introduits par effraction dans les lieux. Les locaux de l'Ecole des chartes jouxtent la chapelle de la Sorbonne, flanquée en ce moment même d'un échafaudage, qui a permis l'accès aux toits du bâtiment. C'est par cette voie que ces individus ont pénétré dans des bureaux - ceux du service recherche - qui ont été saccagés et cambriolés (mobilier renversé, une porte entièrement détruite, du matériel informatique volé). A la bibliothèque, mais dans une moindre mesure, des dégradations ont été commises : des traces de séjour prolongé ont été relevées (papiers gras, reliefs de nourriture, mégots de cigarettes), des biens matériels ont été endommagés, des vitres brisées, des chaises et des tables utilisées pour dresser des barricades. Cependant, les collections de la bibliothèque ont été, dans l'ensemble, épargnées. Les dommages concernent un nombre minime d'ouvrages, rapporté à l'ensemble des collections, et les pertes sont qualitativement insignifiantes : une dizaine d'usuels et de volumes de périodiques, qui se trouvaient dans les salles de lecture, ont servi de projectiles et ont été, pour certains, retrouvés dans la cour de la Sorbonne ou restitués.
"La seule disparition importante que nous déplorions pour le moment concerne des éditions, datant du XIXe siècle, de cartulaires médiévaux. Il s'agit de transcriptions savantes, effectuées au XIXe siècle, de documents concernant des abbayes médiévales. Ces éditions étaient stockées, en attente de numérisation, dans les bureaux du service recherche qui ont été vandalisés. Six ouvrages, correspondant à 9 volumes, ont disparu et n'ont été pour le moment retrouvés ni dans le désordre des bureaux ni dans la cour de la Sorbonne. Ces ouvrages ne sont cependant pas uniques ni à proprement parler précieux ; ils sont relativement rares, en effet, parce que très spécialisés. Mais la BNF, notamment, en possède d'autres exemplaires qui seront prochainement proposés au public sous une forme numérique. Au regard de l'ensemble des collections de la bibliothèque, les pertes sont donc très limitées. Nous attendons désormais de pouvoir reprendre le travail normalement, car en l'absence de l'équipe - l'accès en Sorbonne ayant été limité aux seuls chefs de service - il n'a pas été possible jusqu'à présent de mener un recolement, même partiel, et d'évaluer de manière plus précise les éventuelles disparitions..."
[Excerpt:] "I suppose what I have difficulty understanding is why students would protest by destroying property, any property, at a university. I realize that taking over universities is a time-honored form of student protest, but given that the education they receive there is invaluable and tax-payer supported, why "soil one's own nest," so to speak, to make a political point?..."
"It is terribly important not to misunderstand, as the [above] posting appears to: the students who 'occupied' the Sorbonne during the recent demonstrations have not been formally accused of having stolen any books, or of burning any, or even of damaging any.
"The biggest question in Paris at the moment, in fact, is the role in all this of 'casseurs', as they're being called: roving bands of clearly -- or apparently-so -- non-student 'spoilers' who were seen then, and have been seen on all occasions since, involved on the peripheries of these demonstrations, causing fights, throwing and breaking things, pulling grates off shop-windows, and so on.
The difficulty in the case of the 'casseurs', though, is the same as that in the case of the 'students': false accusations, innuendo, lack of evidence, rumor -- the Paris rumor-mill is alive & well & working at top-speed, now, on all of this --
La calunnia e' un venticello,
un'auretta assai gentile
che insensibile, sottile,
incomincia a sussurrar...
"So, whatever sympathy, or lack thereof, one might have in general for Sorbonne 'students', consider too the vagrants, and the politically & socially disaffected, and simply the urban poor, of central Paris -- the 'ventre de Paris' of Zola, and of Hugo -- that's perhaps the 'casseurs' increasingly being identified, inaccurately in all cases so far, in the current Paris troubles, too. Paris has become an urban monster approaching 12 million population, and a lot of folks in France have been unemployed for far too long, recently: so, plenty of 'needy & angry' now in Paris, sadly.
"But neither group -- neither 'students' nor 'casseurs' -- deserves condemnation until the evidence is in.
"The Ec. des Chartes volumes, specifically, appear to have been in a locked room nevertheless available to anyone willing to climb a tall temporary scaffold outside and enter through a high window... this per recent reports and correspondents... and the room contained laptops, which were stolen, and other equipment, so most likely it was those and not the books which were the targets...
"The question of who did this thing and why they did it, however, is entirely unanswerable at the moment. The Paris police will do their usual job of trying to figure that out: but until they do, speculation by others as to whether 'students' or 'casseurs' or anyone else might have done this can be unhelpful and in current circumstances even dangerous to innocent parties. Passions are running high in Paris, right now.
"It is important to admit that we don't know, is all I'm saying myself -- also to allow that more than one possible explanation, for any specific event such as a particular broken shop-window or this possible theft of books, might exist. Any good Paris police inspector will do that. If the media and others don't, they exacerbate a bad situation for no reason.
"ps. It seems important to note again that, per (I thought) my original posting, the Ec. des Chartes "cartulaires" books in question were printed in the late 19th c.: they do describe documents of much earlier date, but they themselves were printed recently. They are "rare", in the sense that few other copies are known to exist, but there are other copies, for instance at the BnF: the 'euros 2000' rare-book-market price for them indicates such rarity -- but these are not 'medieval manuscripts' themselves, only records of same. For examples see the excellent and very useful 'cartulaires' digitization project of which these volumes were a part, online at: http://elec.enc.sorbonne.fr/cartulaires
[And, as to this last letter, it is important to me to acknowledge, once again, the good influence of Michel Melot: his original note forwarded to H-France, above, first suggested to me the importance here to "go easy" on the "casseurs" as well as on the "students" -- many folks are at risk these days, in Paris, where mostly now there simply is innuendo, "calunnia", and all too little real evidence.]
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://email@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/ or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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