Tuesday, August 06, 2013


OK, so it's lovely and convenient and wonderful (if unfortunate for those now applying for grants to do research in Croissantsville) that the BNF (French national library) has digitized just about everything. And it's delightful that you can (kind of) search the documents themselves. But would it be too much to ask for those who label the documents not to hand-scribble the identifying information, such that it's one bad xerox or whatever away from complete incomprehensibility? I'd found all of this neat info. (about an author my advisor had suggested I look at, and she was so very right), but wasn't sure if it could ultimately end up in my dissertation, because bits and pieces of identifying information were missing. Important ones, like which date of which publication something came from. (Year and author I knew, and I could see that there was a month ending in -bre, which only just narrowed things down.) Footnote formatting is one thing, but my understanding of research is, the thing you cite needs to be identifiable beyond 'page 302 of some PDF.'

Despair, despair, until the deadline adrenaline kicked in, and I figured out the mystery scribbler's system. If I didn't find this, it wasn't going in. I first sorted out which documents were in the PDF - that is, what the possible dates might be. (A few months were possible; it's not like there was a table of contents or anything remotely of that nature.) This confirmed the -bre but wasn't otherwise helpful. Then I had the brilliant (i.e. in retrospect obvious) idea to look at preceding entries (the PDF's a mishmash of documents), and found that they were indeed in chronological order. Moreover, I saw that Monsieur or Madame or Mademoiselle the scribbler would alternate between "octobre" and a messy version of "8bre." The famous -bre, at last! Making the mysterious 48th of mystery month, 1882, October 4, 1882.

I can't begin to convey the sense of triumph/relief I felt when I finally sorted that out.

1 comment:

Petey said...

Too bad the scribbler didn't employ the calendrier républicain français.

Vendémiaire just has a better ring to it than 8bre.