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Liberation of Paris - resistants on car

The Liberation Collection is a comprehensive collection of books and pamphlets in French on the subjects of the Second World War, the Occupation and the Liberation published during a period of just over two years, from August 1944 to the end of 1946.

The purpose of the collection is to show how the French used the medium of the book to express what had happened to them over the previous five years but the decision to collect everything published on three broad subjects within a limited period provides an unique opportunity to survey the state of book publishing and printing in France at a time when the country was just beginning its long recovery.

These pages describe the collection, explain how to use it and search it and provide access to articles about the collection. Additionally, we highlight key interesting material from the collection at the links below and on our Flickr page.



Spotlight on items from the collection

Youth Culture at the Liberation: Résistantes and Résistants in Cardboard Cut-Outs


Camus is outmanoeuvred

Albert Camus had spent the period from April 18 to May 7 1945 in Algeria. When he returned to his home in the rue Sébastien-Bottin, he found the manuscript of a novel about the French Resistance by André Salvet, together with a letter from the author asking Camus to supply a preface. Camus replied courteously, indicating that he felt such an introduction would not be entirely appropriate. “J’ai risqué beaucoup moins que votre héros, et ce n’est pas à moi de le présenter.” He also questioned the desirability of producing any sort of commentary on a novel which should stand alone. “Est-ce à l’écrivain que vous vous adressez? Mais, dans ce cas, il m’a toujours semblé qu’un livre, surtout lorsqu’il témoigne comme celui-là, devait se présenter seul et sans commentaires.”


The book as a precious object

Bell, Book and Candle are symbolic objects in the term that describes an archaic form of excommunication, as well as being the title of a 1950s Broadway comedy, the book representing faith and learning. But I suggest that another term ‘precious object’ can be applied to individual copies of books which memorialize important relationships usually through inscription. Newton’s own annotated copy of his Principia in Cambridge University Library is an example of a precious object because of the intimate relation that particular copy has with the author through his annotations. But the precious object is the physical book itself not its printed text. Three examples of books that are ‘precious objects’ are in the Liberation Collection 1944-1946 in Cambridge University Library


Infographics during the war – charting victory with cute statistics

By early 1945, the tide of the Second World War had turned. The allies were winning the war of armaments, raw materials, and battles; victory was now a question of when, rather than if.

It was within this context that Libération-Soir, the newspaper, printed a special entitled Vers la défaite totale de l’Allemagne.



Ceux du maquis and a new thesis from 1978

Thanks to the Liberation Collection, the level of modern material that we collect about French history from 1944-1946 has significantly expanded. A recent acquisition drew my attention:

Histoire de l’Occupation et de la Résistance dans la Nièvre 1940-1944 / Jean-Claude Martinet ; édition présentée par Jean Vigreux.(C210.c.7324).


Hitler a menti - Cover

Newsflash! Hitler lied!


The Literature of the Liberation Collection aims to collect books that reflect the attitude of the French following the liberation of Paris: as the nation began to recover from—and come to terms with—the German occupation (and active French collaboration). Most of the books in the collection (and that we highlighted in the exhibition) are therefore about the French—what they suffered, how they can recover, and how they relate to their recent history. One book that is striking for its different subject matter is Hitler a menti : ce qu’il a dit, ce qu’il a fait / Pierre Deboeuf (Liberation.c.401).


Hitler a menti - Cover