The French collections at Cambridge University Library exist to support the curriculum and research needs of the university in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. The collections contain a comprehensive selection of works by major French writers, with a special emphasis on authors currently taught or researched at the University of Cambridge.
There are many original academic works in the humanities and the social sciences which are written in the French language. As a result, there is French language material relating not only to France and French studies, but also to all subject areas covered by the Library's acquisition policy.
The geographical coverage of the collections is particularly wide, including not only France, but areas that are or have been under French influence, such as French overseas territories and former French colonies. The Library actively continues to acquire works which are significant in the contemporary Francophone world. The collections include monographs and serials (both in paper and/or microform) and an increasing number of electronic resources (e-books, e-journals and article databases). A significant amount of printed material is available on the open shelves (see Classification).
The collection is estimated to contain over 220,000 items in French. This figure includes approx. 800 items published in the 16th century, 6000 items in the 17th century, 14,500 in the 18th century, and 38,000 in the 19th century. There are also items relating to French studies in other languages, including English, German, Italian and Spanish. There is extensive coverage of subjects such as history, literature, linguistics, as well as social sciences, philosophy, fine arts and sciences.
A variety of historical sources covering various periods in French history can be found in specialised departments (Maps, Manuscripts, Rare Rooks and Royal Commonwealth Society).