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France & French Collections at the Library of Congress

Research Strategies & Library Materials

The Library holds a variety of materials on French history and culture, all of which can be located through the Library of Congress Online Catalog or the Library of Congress Digital Collections. In addition to using the vast French collections at the Library of Congress, consider using the French National Library, the Bibliothèque national de France External which has a digital collection, Gallica External. You can contact the Bibliothèque nationale de France directly with your question using SINDBAD External  (Service d’INformation Des Bibliothécaires À Distance). You may also wish to reference the LibGuides from the BnF External which are in French but have detailed information about locating research materials.

Library of Congress Resources


  • International biographical and genealogical databases are available at the Library's Databases: E-Resources page
  • Biography Resource Center database searchable by nationality and name; includes many entries for historical and current French personalities in wide range of fields. English language only.
  • Michaud. Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne. Paris : Michaud frères, 1811-1862. 85v. CT143 .M4. MRR Biography Alcove. Electronic edition: Gallica - new, revised edition, 1843-18??.
  • Dictionnaire de biographie française. Ed. J. Balteau, M. Barroux, M. Prévost. Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1933-2009. CT143 .D5. MRR Biography Alcove.
  • Archives biographiques françaises. I and II. (K.G. Saur, 1988-1990; 1993-2000). Microfiche collection based on biographical reference works from the 18th-20th c. (MERC) Guide: Index biographiques françaises. 7v. CT1003 +A83 1988 Index. MRR Ref Desk. Online guide at World Biographical Information System searchable by name and biographical archive. Limited to one (simultaneous) user. Log out when finished.
  • Who's who in France. Paris: J. Lafitte, 1955- . DC 705.A1 W46. Latest editions in MRR Biography Alcove and Eur RR. Online version not available at LC.


French Telephone Directories


French Dissertation Indexes

  • Catalogue des thèses et écrits académiques. Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1885-1958. Z5055 F79 F73. The official, annual French list of dissertations and masters theses.
  • SUDOC External (Système universitaire de documentation), the online French collective catalog of French institutes of higher education, comprehensively lists French dissertations with links to some full-text titles.
  • The Signets de la BnF site links to French and other international bibliographies and full-text dissertations under Généralités, Thèses. For more detailed information about locating dissertations at the BnF use the guide, Localiser une thèse à la BnF External.

French Newspapers, Periodicals and Government Documents

The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room (LM-133) provides access to French newspapers, current French periodicals and current government documents.


Newspaper Indexes:

Consult the online LC catalog for printed indexes of select individual newspaper titles (e.g. search for "Monde" and "index" using the online catalog's guided search form to find historical print indexes for Le Monde) or an individual newspaper's website for indexed archives (see Online Newspapers: France External for a comprehensive list of French newspapers)

Search Google using the specific newspaper title and the word "index."

Periodicals, or Serials:

For titles and select holdings, consult the LC online catalog.

Full-text Online:

  • Serials Solutions (E-Journals: E-Resources) searches for electronic journals in both subscription (e.g. JSTOR) and open access databases (e.g. or PERSEE).
  • EBZ (Electronic Journals Library links to electronic editions/archives in open access and subscription databases.

Periodical Indexes and Bibliographic Databases:

Government Documents:

  • For LC holdings of non-digitized historical documents, consult the Library of Congress online catalog.

French Archives and Manuscripts

Consult the websites of individual French archives and libraries for online full-text guides to their collections. Links to select archives and libraries available at the France Portal. The BnF's archive and manuscript catalog describes some of the manuscripts and archives held in their Manuscripts Department and Department of Performing Arts (Arts du Spectacle) and all the manuscripts preserved in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal External Consult holding institutions or LC online catalog for printed guides.

Select French Materials from the LC Special Collections

Rare Books:

The subject range of rare French material reflects that of the general collections, from the arts to the sciences and technology. The Library's Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room also holds a significant collection of French incunabula and rare editions dating from the fifteenth through the twentieth century.


The Law Library holds a comprehensive collection of current legal resources from all French-speaking countries, as well as significant historical collections and general resources.


The Library's Manuscript Division focuses primarily on American history and culture. French holdings are strongest for topics or periods where the histories of France and America overlap. The Library's Foreign Copying Program, begun in 1914, reproduced material from French archives and libraries dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries related primarily to French exploration of the New World to French participation in the American Revolution.


The Library's Geography & Map Division holds a significant collection of French cartographic material, including maps, atlases, reference works, globes and globe gores, raised relief models, and CDs/DVDs. Highlights include important French sixteenth- and seventeenth-century atlases and printed maps, a notably strong collection of eighteenth-century French materials, and a major collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French hydrographic charts.

Photographs; Fine and Popular Prints and Drawings; Posters:

The Library's Prints & Photographs Division holds collections that include numerous items produced by French artists in all formats as well as by Americans featuring French subjects or working in Europe. The Prints & Photographs online catalog locates a significant percentage of the holdings and links to many digital images.

Motion Pictures:

The Library's Moving Image Research Center has several hundred French films. These range from the early silent films by Lumières and Pathé frères to theatrical features of the sound era, including works by directors such as Renoir, Chabrol, Truffaut, and Alain Renais. The Moving Images Research Guide has information about general research in this area. For more information on French Film see the research guide, French & Francophone Film.

Recorded Sound:

Sound recordings of French personalities, or Americans in France may be found in the Recorded Sound Reference Center. Partial holdings may be searched in their online catalog, SONIC.


The Music Division holds a notable number of French music typographic manuals, published music and books, manuscript letters and scores, as well as French musical instruments. More information can be found in the guide to the Performing Arts Reading Room. Catalogs, bibliographies and finding aids, as well as the materials themselves, may be consulted in there.

Image of the LC Online Catalog Homepage

The Library of Congress Online Catalog is a great place to begin your research since it provides bibliographic descriptions for the vast majority of collection items available at the Library.

Types of Searches

  • Browse
    Use this search to find titles, authors/creators, subjects, call numbers, or standard numbers.
  • Advanced Search
    Use this search for a guided approach to building a more complex search combinging names, titles, subjects, and keywords as needed.
  • Keyword Search
    Use this search for a "one box" approach to find words and phrases anywhere in the catalog record or in title, author, or subject fields.

Using Search Limits

All searches can be narrowed down by adding filters to your search using the "Add Limits" button. Limit searches with the following options:

  • Years of Publication
  • Place of Publication
  • Location in the Library
  • Type of Material
  • Language

Subject Searches for French Material in the Online Catalog

The Library of Congress Online Catalog represents a collection of over 18 million catalog records for books, serials, manuscripts, maps, music, recordings, images, and electronic resources in the Library of Congress collections. The vastness of the French collections makes it imperative to use limits and more refined searches to wade through the volume of material. In some cases—where a title or author is known in advance—it is easy to do a title or author search. However, when looking for material on a given topic (Browse Search using "Subject Containing") it will help to use the assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). It is essential to determine the LCSH that was used to group subject material and this is not always intuitive. There are printed volumes that provide alphabetized lists of the LCSH.

Relevant LCSHs on Women in the French Revolution are as follows:

It is important to conduct many searches. For example, Women revolutionaries--France--Biography will not bring you every biography on revolutionary women in France. You will find additional works under Women intellectuals--France--Biography.

When searching for individuals, it is recommended that you locate the authoritative name used by the Library's catalogers. For example, to find all forms of the names Sophie de Grouchy, browse "AUTHORS/CREATORS (Containing)":

Another way to determine a LCSH is to locate a relevant book by title, and note the LCSHs that have been assigned. There will be some overlap, and these subject headings are not always entirely comprehensive. For example, conducting a title search for "French Resistance" will bring you to a book with that title, and scrolling down you will see the LC Subject headings providing the following terms which are linked to thousands of relevant titles as well as narrower terms related to the subject:

Guides for Researching the French Collections at the Library of Congress

Reading in French: A Student's Guide to Francophone Literature & Language Learning - This guide is for students of French language and culture. It offers a selection of books in French that are most suitable for language learners.

This guide is for students of French language and culture. It offers a selection of books in French including: comics (bande dessinée) & graphic novels, children's and young adult literature, crime novels, contemporary fiction, and contemporary issues.

Women in the French Revolution - This guide is a starting point for research on women in the French Revolution of 1789.

This guide is a starting point for research on women in the French Revolution of 1789. It includes English and French-language bibliographies, open-access digital resources, images, and biographical information on key figures in the Revolution.

Feminism & French Women in History -An overview of French women in history and the evolution of the French feminist movement.

An overview of French women in history and the evolution of the French feminist movement. It includes English and French-language resources, primary sources and covers the Middle Ages, Witch Trials, Ancien Régime, Revolutionary and Modern eras in France.

Librarians can help! Visit us in the European Reading Room (LJ 250), email us at [email protected], or call our reference desk staffed by librarians at 202-707-4515.