Item of the Week: Barbier's books

Published: November 4, 2011


Anyone running across an eighteenth century book with no author on the title page knows that one of the first places to check is in the Barbier catalog.

This week’s featured item is the auction catalogue of Barbier’s personal library. Catalogue des livres de la bibliothéque de feu M. A.-A. Barbier, published in Paris by M. Barrois and M. Benou, and printed by the Imprimerie de Fain in 1828,  provides a glimpse into his extensive collections. Sorted under broad headings such as Theology, Jurisprudence, Belles Lettres, and Science and Arts, someone has listed the price realized for each lot. Diderot’s Encyclopédie (1778) was snatched up for 60 francs, De Imitatione Christi by Tomas à Kempis, published in 1660 sold for 1.55, and the 1816 Duchess of Devonshire’s edition of Horace’s Satires was hammered at 23.20.


Antoine-Alexandre Barbier (1765-1825) had a distinguished career as bibliographer and librarian. Born in Coulommiers, in northern France, he served as a priest until 1801. Shortly after the French Revolution, Barbier was appointed to distribute books confiscated in the war to various libraries around Paris. He went on to serve as librarian to the Directoire exécutif, the Conseil d’État, and then to Napoleon. Eventually, he became administrator of Louis XVIII’s private libraries , until he was stripped of his titles in 1822, dying shortly thereafter. Barbier saw his Dictionnaire des Ouvrages Anonymes et Pseudonyms published 1806 and was working on a second edition when he died.


For more information on Barbier, see



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