Bibliothèque de la Pléiade
Some albums de la Pléiade.
|Parent company||Éditions Gallimard|
|Country of origin||France|
The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade ([bi.bli.jɔ.tɛk də la ple.jad], "Pleiades Library") is a French series of books which was created in 1931 by Jacques Schiffrin, an independent young editor. Schiffrin wanted to provide the public with reference editions of the complete works of classic authors in a pocket format. André Gide took an interest in Schiffrin's project and brought it into Gallimard, under which it is still published.
The Pléiade has a strong emphasis on works that were originally written in French, though the collection also includes classics of world literature, such as bilingual editions of the works of William Shakespeare, or French editions of Jane Austen's work. To date, more than eight hundred books have been published in the series, with eleven books generally published every year. The "entry into the Pléiade" is considered a major sign of recognition for an author in France, and it is extremely rare that a living author is published in the Pléiade.
In 1992, Gallimard and Einaudi began a similar series of literature in Italian, the Biblioteca della Pléiade. The Library of America series, launched in 1979, is a similar project in the United States inspired by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.
The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade was founded by Jacques Schiffrin in 1931. The first volume published was the first tome of the complete works of Charles Baudelaire, on 10 September 1931. André Gide and Jean Schlumberger, creators of the Nouvelle Revue française (NRF), took interest in this, and integrated the collection into Gallimard on 31 July 1936. In 1939, André Gide became the first author to be published while still living, with the partial publication of his diary. In 1940, Jacques Schiffrin was fired by Gaston Gallimard because of the anti-Jewish laws. Jean Paulhan took the direction of the collection. After moving to New York to escape Nazism, Jacques Schiffrin became a founder of Pantheon Books.
Directors of the collection:
- 1931-1940 : Jacques Schiffrin
- 1960-1966 : Jean Ducourneau
- 1966-1987 : Pierre Buge
- 1988-1996 : Jacques Cotin
- After 1997 : Hugues Pradier
All the books offer a similar high quality appearance—leather bound, with gold lettering on the spine and bible paper, and they have a practical small format which makes them look like small Bibles. The use of bible paper allows the books to contain a high number of pages; it is common for a Pléiade book to contain at least 1500. The longest volume in the Pléiade is Les mille et une nuits I, II et III, at 3504 pages.
The leather covers of the books are also colour-coded according to period: 20th century literature comes in tobacco leather, 19th century in emerald green, 18th century in blue, 17th century in Venetian red, 16th in Corinthian brown, the Middle Ages purple, Antiquity green, spiritual texts grey, and anthologies red. The books are sold in a transparent rhodoïd dust jacket, and inserted in a white printed cardboard slipcase, although multiple volumes are often sold in a single slipcase.
The books are critical editions, with annotations, comments, manuscript and editorial variants and accompanying documents. The preparation of these critical editions can take many years for a team of specialists, which accounts partly for the books' generally steep cost. For works written in languages other than French, new French translations are usually created.
In the 1960s and 1970s, an Encyclopédie de la Pléiade in the same format was also created, under the direction of Raymond Queneau.
At the beginning of 2014, the collection includes nearly 800 books and more than 250 authors (collective works excluded):
- Bibliothèque de la Pléiade : 686 volumes;
- Albums de la Pléiade : 52 volumes;
- Encyclopédie de la Pléiade : 54 volumes
The authors that were alive when published in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade are:
- René Char (1983)
- Paul Claudel (1948)
- André Gide (1939, 1st)
- Julien Gracq (1989)
- Julien Green (1998)
- Eugène Ionesco (1991)
- Philippe Jaccottet (2014, 15th)
- Milan Kundera (2011, 14th)
- Jean d'Ormesson (2015, 16th)
- Claude Lévi-Strauss (2008, 13th)
- André Malraux (1947)
- Roger Martin du Gard (1955)
- Henry de Montherlant (1972)
- Nathalie Sarraute (1996)
- Saint-John Perse (1972)
- Marguerite Yourcenar (1982)
The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade also publishes an Album de la Pléiade every Summer, which is an illustrated book in the same format as the rest of the series, usually dedicated to one of the writers but sometimes also dedicated to writers from a specific time period (1989 album) or to an important topic (1970 and 2009 albums) from the collection. The Albums are offered for free with the purchase of three books in the series. They are often collected.
Notes and references
- WorldCat, "Biblioteca della Pléiade".
- One example where a new translation was not made is Ulysses, by James Joyce. The Morel translation from 1929 was used.
- "Le poète vaudois Philippe Jaccottet entre de son vivant dans La Pléiade", www.rts.ch (page visited on 14 February 2014).
- "Philippe Jaccottet", www.la-pleiade.fr (page visited on 14 February 2014).
- "Kundera joins La Pléiade", www.ceskapozice.cz (page visited on 14 February 2014).
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