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Antillana - Marcel Chatillon

Printed books, manuscripts, archives

Marcel Chatillon (1925-2003) worked as a surgeon in the French Guiana and then Guadeloupe from 1953 to 1983. Over fifty years he collected paintings, prints, manuscripts and printed books about the Antilles and the French in America. In 1998, the Mazarine organised a large exhibition around his collection and in 2002 Dr Chatillon decided to bequeath his "Antillean library" to the Mazarine; the paintings and most important illustrated documents were given to the Musée d'Aquitaine and the archives, to the Archives départementales de la Gironde.
The collection contains about 20 manuscript references and nearly 2,000 printed books of which 500 are valuable old books and the rest form a remarkable reference library on the history of the Caribbean in general and the Antilles archipelago in particular. Outstanding items are: a manuscript, perhaps autograph, and two copies of each of the two editions of Histoire générale des Antilles by Father Du Tertre (the first belonged to Father Breton, the second was dedicated to Achille de Harlay); Pierre Louys' copy of Zombi du Grand Pérou by Corneille-Blessebois; the only known example of the Lettres de Madame P. née C (Cap-Français, 1782), an exotic pastiche of Les Liaisons dangereuses; many historical and iconographic documents such as the Jamaican collection of character sketches by Belisario, with five original drawings; and rare editions of the Code Noir and a remarkable collection of books printed in the Antilles. Another remarkable aspect of the collection is the archives of the Société des Amis des Noirs, the first French society working for the abolition of slavery (1788-1799). This set of reports, correspondence and, most importantly, the minutes of the society's deliberations, was acquired by Dr Chatillon in 1982.
When Dr Chatillon's Antillean library joined the Mazarine Library, in 2003, one manuscript was missing. It was an inquiry into the native people of the Antilles by a trader named Caillé de Castres, and was dated 1694: De wilde ou Les sauvages caribes insullaires d'Amerique. Histoire nouvelle (online description: Ms. Ant. 14). This manuscript, which was in the collection just before the death of Marcel Chatillon, has still not been located.
Joining an already large collection of social and political history, the work of botanists and travellers' accounts in the Americas, the Chatillon bequest, since supplemented by Jean-Claude Nardin's donation, has made the Mazarine a privileged place for research on the Antilles.

De la découverte à l'émancipation : trois siècles et demi d'histoire antillaise à travers les collections du docteur Chatillon et de la Bibliothèque Mazarine, exposition présentée par Marcel Chatillon et Jean-Claude Nardin. Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, 1998.