Beta testing of search within the covers of books !

Following the stirling work of a group of volunteers including Henry M., Paul F. and Tagirem G. G. it is now possible for our users to search the full-text content of books on India in French published from 1870 to 1900! More decades to 1900 and beyond will be added in the next days and weeks. This text search field is found right at the end of each page below the standard WordPress search. It is called ‘recherche personnalisée’.

We would welcome comment regarding how well this search is working. Please contact us via the site or by email to

Volunteering at the British Library

Samantha Stubbington reports on her experience of volunteering at the British Library for the MLC-hosted French Books on India project

‘I was interested in taking part in some volunteering and found the opportunity at the British Library with the French Books on India project online late last year. It seemed like a good fit as it would be a chance for me to use my language skills as well as provide me with the experience of working in hidden parts of the British Library which I would otherwise not be able to see. The project co-ordinator at Liverpool, Dr Ian Magedera, answered my questions on what I could expect in terms of time commitment and provided welcome reassurance that the skills-set outlined in my CV would be of help in advancing the project. He also sent me a letter of letter of recommendation, so that I could get my Reader’s Pass on my first day at Euston Road.

During my first visit to the library on 17 January 2017, I met with a fellow volunteer, Andrew, who has worked on the project for about four months and was tremendously helpful in sharing his knowledge and showing me the different parts of the building – the Rare Books and Manuscripts Room and the Asian and African Collections (the former India Office Library) – where we would conduct our research. The British Library complex at St Pancras is like a maze but I’m slowly learning to find my way around. The place has a tremendous energy and, despite its size, feels very welcoming. Working in the ‘Reading Rooms’ you genuinely feel like you are part of a community.

On 24 January, on my second visit, I began to review a catalogue of early printed French-language books for content on India. I don’t have to wear white gloves when retrieving and handling the books as they can catch on fragile pages, tearing them, but sometimes I have to take bound volumes to a dedicated area, away from cameras and bright lights.

I’m really enjoying my new experience of volunteering on a university-level research project and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in having new experiences, meeting new people and making a difference.’

French Books on India is an open access digital discovery tool with book data on French and Indian language books from 1531 to 2016 and ebooks before 1939 via Gallica and Google Books. It also has bilingual annotations written by an international team of thirty-one experts.

Key quote

“There is something truly magical about being handed a book, sometimes only the size of a pocket diary, delicately held together by a piece of ancient thread and pausing to consider its history before recording its relevance to the project.”

The camera turns 180 degrees

Since the data collection for this site began, a decade ago in 2006, it has had a single focus: the understanding of India in the French language. Collaborators in West Bengal and the UK have just enriched that. Now in 2016 we have not only French books on India, but also Indian books on the French in India. Or, to be precise, mini-essays on Bengali accounts of interactions between them and the French and other Europeans (including the British) and on the places in West Bengal influenced by the French. We have turned the camera to point in the other direction, translated this largely unknown material into English (with the French translation to follow) and crosslinked it via key years to our books in French content. So when readers see an Indian flag beside a given a particular year, they can link through to a mention of that year in our English-language essays on Bengali writing. Thereby French books on India has gained another crucial comparative dimension. (Ian Magedera)

Revision History

The wordpress site designed by Magalie L’Abbé went live in June 2015 with version 12. It was then corrected and updated with the material below by Magalie L’Abbé (June and July 2015) and Anne Le Sinq (October 2015 to April 2016. Since June 2018, Sarah Walkley has been responsible for updates.

Version 19 – August 2018
Between June and 2018, Sarah Walkley has overhauled the guidance for project volunteers on how to create and format an entry. As well as continuing to add the book data discovered by Andrew Bowhay from the British Library’s Goldsmith catalogues of early French books and the scholarly bibliographic annotations provided by Sanjay Kumar and Claudine Le Blanc, Sarah Walkley has developed and implemented a show/hide technical solution to the issue of having useful bibliographical notes and scholarly annotations accessible below book data, without cluttering the main display.

Version 19 – April 2016
This update was made by Anne Le Sinq and checked by Ian Magedera. From the period from 1770 to 1799 there are twelve entries, fourteen hyperlinks two bilingual annotations edited and significantly augmented by Babette Chabout-Combaz from initial notes made by Corinne François-Denève. In addition, Ian Magedera prepared four hyperlinks and two new entries for the period from 1872 to 1892 as well as fifteen entries by Jean-Marie Lafont published between 1986 and 2013.

Version 18 – March 2016
This major update was made by Anne Le Sinq from material before 1754 edited by Babette Chabout-Combaz. Further details about this material can be found under the Contributors and Acknowledgements tab.

Version 17 – January 2016
This version was prepared by Ian Magedera. It includes material from four first-time contributors: two new entries for 2010 and 2011 by Chandrima Ghosh, two new entries on medical books by Dheeraj Kumar, one new annotated entry by Massimiliano Vaghi and one annotated entry by Tagirem Gallego Garcia. Our gratitude goes to Robin Howells for his corrections of the four entries related to La Reine de Golonde / Aline, reine de Golconde.

Version 16 – October 2015
This version was prepared by Ian Magedera. It includes typographical corrections, an entry for 2015 and repaired links.

Version 15 – October 2015
This version was prepared by Ian Magedera. It includes with seventy new hyperlinks to full text by Googlebooks and Gallica, discovered for the following periods by Amba Karsondas (1846-1876), Aliya Jiva (1877-1892) Louise Fairclough (1893-1914) and Connie Eyles (1915-1939) all of Bolton School facilitated by Georgina Irvine. Fourteen new annotations on nineteenth-century books by Jyoti Mohan, translated by Cécile Jest, one new bilingual annotation each by Swati Dasgupta and Sanjay Kumar, three new annotations by Shinjini Chattopadhyay from material from the Institut français de Pondichéry with the kind permission of Anurupa Naik, three new Bernardin de Saint-Pierre entries sourced by Robin Howells and three new entries indicated by Raphael Malangin and also five new entries edited by Dheeraj Kumar. Our gratitude also goes to Rila Mukherjee (Director), Maya Mukhopadhyay and Rupak Banerjee of the Institut de Chandernagor for the use of the IdC’s collections to confirm bibliographical data.

Version 14 – February 2015
This version, with twenty five new items and one new hyperlink, was prepared by Shinjini Chattopadhyay with Ian Magedera from material compiled and edited by Briana Dincher. Our gratitude also goes to Maya Mukhopadhyay and Rupak Banerjee and to Rila Mukherjee for her kind permission to access items in the collections of the Institut de Chandernagor to confirm bibliographical data.

Version 13 – February 2015
This version, with a dozen new items and one new hyperlink, was prepared by Shinjini Chattopadhyay with Ian Magedera from material compiled and edited by Briana Dincher.

twin transformations

A update from Ian Magedera, project co-ordinator. Collaborators working in Montreal, Paris and London have started to extend the range of the bibliography back in time into the seventeenth, sixteenth and fifteenth centuries. The first results of this long-awaited project may well appear next week, thanks to Anne Le Sinq the project webmaster. Another group of volunteers working in West Bengal have started to survey and sample materials in Bengali about the French presence and the wider interaction between Europeans and Indians in that part of the world between 1754 and 1954 (those year markers remain provisional). That work has led to wonderful chance discoveries, one of which I would like to tell you about:

Rediscovered! The French-book ‘almirahs’ of Chandernagore College, West Bengal

‘Almirah’ is a word that has come into Indian English from the Portuguese armário and from Latin armarium (while still also used in Hindi अलमारी ‎(almārī) and Urdu الماری ‎(almārī). Following a keynote lecture given by Dr Ian Magedera at an international conference organized by the College’s English Department in January 2016, Assistant Professor Antara Mukherjee began a hunt for references in Bengali sources to the French and French culture during the period from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. During that time, despite several interruptions by the Royal Navy and British Army, ‘Chandernagor’, as it is still known in French, was a trading post profiting France. Today’s Chandannagar is a busy town situated 35km upriver from Kolkata, a megacity of fourteen million people. References found will enrich the MLC-hosted, AHRC-funded, digital resource French Books on India, an open access digital library with bilingual annotations and links to full-text books via Gallica and Googlebooks. Though Chandannagar has an Indo-French Institute and its French language learners are served by the Alliance française du Bengale, French influences there are not as obvious as in Pondicherry (Puducherry) in South India. Dr Mukherjee has found traces of them in domestic architecture and cultural practice, insights that could feed into further outputs for the Liverpool-Kolkata ETIC project, but another thread led her right back to her own college library and to books in bookcases that had been donated by the French-speaking Bengali philanthropist and historian Hari Har Sett (among others) in the 1930s. As well as containing several unique items, these hitherto neglected ‘almirahs’ are time capsules filled with books their donors considered important to hand down to Bengali students of French.

Collage 1

Books from the almirahs, photo credits: Sayantani Chakraborti and Antara Mukherjee.