Gallica Friday

Gallica, the online search engine of the French National Library (BnF), is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or maybe since the baguette. Welcome to Gallica Friday, where I’ll highlight some of the fun, interesting, and curious things I found by happily clicking around Gallica.

Let’s start with book ads from 19th-century France. The standard publishing model back then was to serialize the novel before printing it as a separate, self-contained book. Novels were usually first published in serial form in popular newspapers, then reprinted and sold as a series of booklets, and only after that collected in one volume as a novel. It was a pretty solid economic model for writers and publishers, and it might be one of the reasons why those 19th-century novels are so very long.

Gallica offers a glimpse of how these serialized novels were marketed when they were first published. Here are the ads for some well-known novels by Emile Zola: Au Bonheur des dames/The Ladies’ Paradise (1883), Germinal (1885) La Bête humaine/The Monomaniac (1890), and La Débâcle/The Downfall (1892).

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