Trials

A colorful and intriguing constituent of the French Collection comprises materials which document famous trials. A 22-volume 1737 imprint entitled Causes Célèbres et Intéressantes includes accounts of such notable cases as the 1560 affair of false identity "Le Faux Martin Guerre," which made two film appearances more than 400 years later, first as The Return of Martin Guerre and subsequently as Sommersby. One set of 1762 court documents contains materials prepared for the Jean Calas case, an especially notorious case denounced by Voltaire in which a father was barbarously executed on the wheel for the "murder of his eldest son [who many suspected had committed suicide], to prevent his turning Roman Catholick." A two-volume set from 1783 chronicles the trial of Radix de Sainte-Foy, accused of embezzling funds while serving as Surintendant des Finances of the estate of the Comte d'Artois (later Charles X). This set provides penetrating insight into the legal process of the 1780s, and contains manuscript notes which add to its appeal. 

In the early 19th century, five contemporary pamphlets document aspects of the military trial in the disturbing Maréchal Ney affair of 1815, which resulted in Ney's execution. A group of contemporary 19th century imprints, which includes coroner's documents, transcripts of court sessions and excerpted letters of the victim, concern the Choiseul-Praslin affair, in which the Duc de Praslin, arrested for the 1847 murder of his wife, committed suicide before he could be brought to trial. Consequences of this unpleasantness were the disruption of the government of Louis-Philippe, and in the next century, providing the plot for the 1940 Bette Davis film All This and Heaven Too. 


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