Pequot Library Special Collections Notre Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris By Victor HugoThomas Y. Crowell & Co, New York, 1888 Curated by Hayley Battaglia Photographs by Hayley Battaglia
Victor HugoNotre-Dame de ParisThomas Y. Crowell & Co, New York, 1888The life of Notre Dame de Paris began in 1828, when Victor Hugo signed a contractwith his publisher, Gosselin, stipulating that he would write a novel similar to thewidely read historical fiction of Walter Scott. Progress on the work was interruptedrepeatedly, especially by the events of the July Revolution in Paris in 1830 whichled to the abdication of Charles XAscension of Louis-Philippe to the French throne and establishment of theconstitutional July Monarchy. These events bled into Hugo’s work, inspiring thethemes of distrust in authority that pervade the novel and Notre-Dame de Paris wasfinally published on February 13, 1831.Notre-Dame de Paris was not so much the historical novel requested by Gosselin(historical in the sense of a narrative woven around a specific historical event orfigure), but rather a Gothic drama festooned with historical details such as dress,custom, and architecture.
As it turns out what we now would call “historic preservation” is at the heart ofNotre-Dame de Paris, and architecture is one of Hugo’s central concerns. In hisnote in the 1832 edition Hugo writes, “But in any case, whatever the future ofarchitecture may be, however our young architects may one day resolve thequestion of their art, while we wait for new monuments, let us preserve the oldones. Let us inspire the nation, if possible, with a love of our nationalarchitecture… .” Hugo views Notre Dame (and Paris’s historic architecture ingeneral) as something precious, irreplaceable, and in danger of being lost. Insome English translations of the novel, the title is altered to “The Hunchback ofNotre Dame,” mistakenly presenting the hunchbacked Quasimodo as theprotagonist of the tale when in actuality, it is the great cathedral herself whocarries the focus of the story and is brought alive in its telling.The great international success of Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris sparked arenewed interest in the cathedral and forever linked his name to it Not only did thenovel reignite an interest in Notre Dame, but in pre-Renaissance architecture ingeneral, shedding light on the need to preserve these historic buildings.
This edition is translated by Isabel F. Hapgood and includes illustrations by Luc-Olivier Merson, Gustave Brion, and Charles Edouard de Beaumont as well as afrontispiece by Herman Winthrop Pierce and photograph of the author taken byrenowned portrait photographer, Felix Nadar. Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. publishedHapgood’s translation in 1888. Crowell originally had a bookbinding business,which he had started in Boston around 1860. Sixteen years later, he began asecond venture, a publishing business in New York, which he merged with hisbookbinding business in 1900. Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. also published Hugo’spoetry anthologies, Les Miserables, and Ninety-Three, among other works.Student Curator: Hayley Battaglia
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