The Library Inventory Catalogue of Samuel Petit across the Channel.

The private library inventory catalogue of Samuel Petit (1594-1643), published in Paris in 1645, is one of the earliest printed inventory catalogues produced in France. Petit_tpAccording to Pollard and Ehrman, it was preceded only by the library inventories of Thomas Blaise (1641) and Jean des Cordes (1643). Petit was a French Huguenot priest, orientalist, classical scholar, and professor of Greek at at the Collège des Arts in Nîmes. He had an immense reputation for knowledge and corresponded with many of the leading members of the European learned world. Petit’s inventory catalogue, entitled Catalogus librorum insignium quamplurimorum ex bibliotheca viri clarissimi doctissimique Samuelis Petiti, documents his important library of about 1000 printed books and 35 Greek, Latin, and oriental manuscripts. The collection was rich in Biblical texts, Biblical commentaries, Greek and Roman literature, and Hebrew texts. The catalogue was compiled by the physician, translator, and philosopher, Samuel Sorbière (1615-1670), who was Petit’s nephew and ward.

The Grolier Club copy of Petit’s inventory catalogue is interesting for its subsequent history. On an endpaper, in a late seventeenth-century hand, is a list of eight other book catalogues with which the inventory was formerly bound.  The book catalogues are all English, produced from 1680 to 1697, and include bibliographies, bookseller catalogues, and auction catalogues.

Petit_contents_close up

The full transcribed list of titles is as follows:

1. Catalogus Librorum, insignium quam plurimorum, ex Biblioth. Sam. Petiti. Par. 1645.

2. Dr. Bray’s Bibliotheca Parochialis: or, Scheme of Theological Heads requisite to be studied by every Pastor of a Parish, Part I. With a Catalogue of Book [sic] to be read upon each Point. Lond. 1697. [ESTC R9382 or R175576?]

3. The Universal Historical Bibliotheque: or, An Account of ye most Considerable Books printed in all Languages in January. Feb. Mar. 1686. [ESTC P3094; a translation of  part of the first vol. of the Bibliotheque universelle et historique, 1686-1693, published in Amsterdam]

4. Catalogue of Stitched Books & single Sheets printed since ye first discovery of ye Popish Plot (Sept. 1678) to January 1679/80. 1680. [ESTC P6543]

5. Catalogue of English Books to be sold by Auction, at Bridges Coffeehouse in Popes Head Alley, Cornhill Dec. 20. 1686. [ESTC R26583]

6. Catalogue of English Books of Charles Mearne Bookseller to ye King. 1687. [ESTC R26197; sale by Edward Millington, 17 Feb. 1687/88].

7. Catalogus Librorum ex variis Europae partibus ap’d Rob. Scott. 1687. [ESTC R37536]

8. Catalogue of Books sold by auction, at Headlam’s Coffeehouse Newcastle. 1692. [ESTC R173589?]

9. Catalogue of English Books sold by Auction in Gateside [Newcastle]. 1696. [ESTC R173587].

Particularly interesting is the inclusion of two rare auction sale catalogues from Newcastle (nos. 8 and 9).  The first catalogue, dating to 1692, may be the sale catalogue issued by the bookseller, John Story (Hunt, p. 86) at George Headlam’s Coffee-House, Sand-Hill, on 28 July 1692 (Munby & Coral, p. 13, ESTC R37536). Munby and Coral identified copies of this catalogue at Yale, the Bodleian, and the Bell Collection, Capheaton. The second Newcastle catalogue dates to 1696 and may be the catalogue issued on 6 Sept. 1696 by the “Blew Bell” in Gateside (Munby & Coral, p. 16, ESTC R173587). Munby & Coral identify just one copy at the Bell Collection, Capheaton, but there is another copy at Yale, where it is cataloged with the date [1699?]. Although the book trade was active in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by the sixteenth-century, the first printing press was not established there until 1639. The earliest Newcastle auction catalogue listed in Munby & Coral dates to 1 August 1687, just five years before the first catalogue in the Petit list.

The list of titles suggests that the Grolier Club copy of the Petit catalogue was in the hands of an English owner in the late seventeenth century: perhaps a book collector, bookseller, or bibliographer. The same hand that compiled the list has added imprint dates to some of the entries in the catalogue, further suggesting an individual with book knowledge. As such, it provides evidence of the significance of the Petit catalogue to at least one owner outside of its immediate date and place of publication. As in our time, it was not unusual in this period for important library catalogues to be retained far past their publication date for reference purposes, and that may have been the case here (see McKitterick, p. 123-124).

Unfortunately, is not known when the Petit catalogue was detached from the other works in the Sammelband. It is currently bound in modern cloth, and nothing is known about the former binding. Some clues might be found in the old inventory numbers inscribed on the title-page: “1343” and, in a later hand, “Z980.” The copy was formerly owned by  Charles Lucas (1911-1983), Anglo-French bookseller, and it was purchased for the Club at Lucas’s sale, Paris, Drouot, 16 October 2015, lot 410, through Jonathan A. Hill.

By Meghan Constantinou


Hunt, C.J. The Book Trade in Northumberland and Durham to 1860: A Biographical Dictionary … Newcastle upon Tyne: Thorne’s Students’ Bookshop Ltd., 1975, p. 86.

McKitterick, David. The Invention of Rare Books: Private Interest and Public Memory, 1600-1840. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Munby, A.N.L. & Lenore Coral, eds. British Book Sale Catalogues, 1676-1800: A Union List. London: Mansell, 1977.

Ormont, H.  “Les manuscrits de Samuel Petit.” Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes, 1915 (t. 76, p. 613-615).

Pollard, Graham & Albert Ehrman. The Distribution of Books by Catalogue from the Invention of Printing to A. D. 1800, based on Material in the Broxbourne Library. Cambridge [Eng.]: Printed for presentation to members of the Roxburghe Club, 1965, no. 201 (p. 322) ; Table XXV (p. 213-215).

“Printing in Newcastle.” William Corbett’s Bookshop. Accessed 10 Nov. 2018.

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