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The French experience in print, 1944–1946

Literature of the Liberation

This exhibition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris and shows some of the books that were published, mainly in France, after August 1944 and before the end of 1946, on the subjects of the Second World War, the German occupation of France starting in 1940, and the country’s liberation by the Allies in 1944–1945. The books are from the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection, donated to Cambridge University Library and still being added to, which is the definitive collection of French books from this period on these subjects.

Beautiful books began to be published immediately after the liberation of Paris in August 1944 even though the War was still being fought in France. Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed there was no longer censorship and it is the immediacy of this response and the quality of the books themselves that makes this period so interesting for the history of the book. The wide availability of fine, handmade papers at the end of the War is one of the discoveries of this collection.

Many of the volumes are association copies with important dedications, but it is the books themselves that are evidence of the importance that the French people attached to publishing accounts of their experiences during the crisis that had befallen France.

Visit the exhibition themes by clicking on the square thumbnails in the row below. Full images of the exhibits can be viewed by clicking on the large square thumbnails at the foot of each theme page.

View a video introduction to ‘Literature of the Liberation’ here.

Behind the scenes

The Gutenberg Bible: an essay by Paul Needham
Contributors to Private Lives of Print