Sunday, 11 July 2010

Louis-Lucien Bonaparte

I confess to a misjudgement at the end of the previous post. On seeing the reference to William Barnes' Song of Solomon in the Dorset Dialect and its limited-edition 1859 print run for H. H. Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, I had visions of some quaint erotica printed for some idle French aristo.

In fact Louis-Lucien Bonaparte was a highly respected linguist with an interest in English dialects, and he had a seriously interesting life. The nephew of Napoleon I, he was born in Worcestershire when his parents were interned by the English en route to America after his father Lucien's falling-out with his brother Napoleon. Brought up in Italy, Louis-Lucien studied mineralogy and chemistry, but his interest turned toward languages. After a brief political career, he was granted aristocratic status under the Second French Empire, but lived primarily in London from the early 1850s. There, moving in distinguished circles as well as the academic, he devoted himself to studies of dialects and languages - notably Basque - as well as printing and publishing, bankrolling the publication of scholarly works. These included translations of parts of the Bible into regional dialects, and Barnes' 250-print Song of Solomon had equivalent companion editions in a variety of English dialects: see Bonaparte's Dialect Versions at the Internet Bible Catalog; the 1862 compilation Song of Solomon, in twenty-four English dialects. includes them all. Louis-Lucien's private income dried up on the fall of the Second Empire, but later, in 1883, he was granted a civil list pension for his work on English dialects. See the British Library feature Out of the confusion of tongues: Louis-Lucien Bonaparte (1813-1891) for a full account. His library, catalogued posthumously in 1894 by Victor Collins, was humungous: see Attempt at a catalogue of the library of the late Prince Louis-Lucien Bonaparte (Internet Archive cu31924031350709).
- Ray


  1. Speaking of Libraries, I am sure that you have read "The Library at Night" by Albert Manguel. He has a chapter in there about how on catalogues a library. I have always found this fascinating. When I was doing mostly science I there were people that had no classification whatsoever for their reprints. They simply knew where in any given file it was. I know Felix is a stickler for classification, using one of those software packages like EndNote.

  2. No: I'll check that one out.

    They simply knew where in any given file it was.

    Sounds like Arthur Lloyd, "The Human Card Index": a 1930s vaudeville performer who act was to go on stage wearing an academic gown containing about 15,000 cards and documents (business, membership, licenses, etc) and rapidly produce any of them on request. The outfit is preserved; Ricky Jay, on examining it, noted that the ordering inside the 40 pockets gave no clue as to how he did it: it was quite possible he just where every one was.