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January 2011 - the Erckmann-Chatrian collection

Although Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian were both originally from Lorraine, most of their works offer a reflection of Alsace, the "charming province" particularly close to Erckmann's heart - his mother's family had roots in the northern hilly part of Alsace.
And indeed among the hundred or so novels and stories they wrote, a large number are located in the shadow of the Vosges, between the Donon and Niederbronn. The BNU has copies of the entire works of Erckmann-Chatrian, mostly in the original editions, with illustrations by famous Alsatian artists. In the nineteenth century, these included Eugène-Théodore Gluck, Théophile Schuler, Gustave Adolphe Jundt and Frédéric Lix, and in the twentieth century Louis-Philippe Kamm and Robert Beltz.

Emile Erckmann et Alexandre Chatrian: Photographie par Pierre Petit parue dans Paris-Théâtre, mai 1878, n°249 Paris : Lemercier, 1878Emile Erckmann et Alexandre Chatrian: Photographie par Pierre Petit parue dans Paris-Théâtre, mai 1878, n°249 Paris : Lemercier, 1878

The manuscript collection is particularly substantial thanks to the donation in 1947 by Prof. Henri Weiss of Emile Erckmann's papers that throw light on the writer's life, his family, his work, and his relations with Chatrian. These documents have been incorporated in the BNU's collections with pressmarks from MS.4993 to MS.5049.
Most are bundles of documents containing many letters from Erckmann to members of his family, documents about his financial and property affairs (including the sawmill in Grosshammerweyer that Erckmann bought in 1868 because it reminded him of his childhood) or everyday objects such as the wallet he always carried. There are also a number of manuscripts written before and after his break with Chatrian, reflecting the different stages of his inspiration. A number of documents in this extensive and fascinating collection illustrate their growing discord, leading up to the libel case Erckmann brought against Le Figaro newspaper in 1890.

Christophe Didier, Director for Collection Development

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