Archive for July, 2009

A few years ago, the Bibliotheque nationale de France (the French national library) began an ambitious project of digitisation, involving countless out-of-copyright texts, photos, prints – and, eventually, newspapers. They began to focus on digitising ‘The Daily Press’, using newspapers from as far back as the revolutionary period up to the early part of the 20th century.

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of the Gallica project (as the digitisation project and database is called). It helped me with random references for the thesis, as well as eventually allowing me to read some of the ‘serious’ newspapers from the period from the relative comfort of my own desk. But the caricature journals always remained available only on microfilm in the library itself (not that I minded – any excuse to go to Paris). Until now, that is.

Finally, the good people at Gallica have got around to beginning to digitise the world’s first daily caricature journal, Le Charivari.
Charivari on Gallica
They’ve only got through its first two years so far (1832 and 1833), though some would argue that this early period contains some of the journal’s best images by Daumier, Travies, Grandville and Gavarni. The above picture is a screenshot of a drawing by Travies from the 15th March issue of 1833, as viewed through the zoom facility on Gallica.

It’s clear that the digitisation of Le Charivari will offer those interested in cartoons, caricature and their history with a brilliant new resource. The Daumier Register has done a sterling job in collecting and digitising high-quality reproductions of HonorĂ© Daumier’s work, but through digitising the whole newspaper I feel that the BNF will (perhaps unknowingly) encourage researchers and those interested in the images to consider the relationship between text and image more than they may have done previously. It’s important that these cartoons are not just assessed as ‘pretty pictures’ or as stand-alone productions, but rather are considered in their original context.

*As an aside – in trying to come up with a decent title for this I’ve done what many 19th century satirical or popular writers and artists did when describing something that’s popular, and added ‘orama’ to the end of the topic in question.


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