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D. N. Bell
The Library of the Abbey of La Trappe
A Study of its History from the Twelfth Century to the French Revolution, with an Annotated Edition of the 1752 Catalogue

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XIV+648 p., 3 b/w ill., 156 x 234 mm, 2014
ISBN: 978-2-503-54571-4
Languages: English, French, Latin
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Retail price: EUR 150,00 excl. tax
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A study of the library of the Cistercian abbey of La Trappe.

This volume presents a study of the library of the Cistercian abbey of La Trappe in Normandy from the twelfth century to the French Revolution, together with an annotated edition of the library catalogue of 1752. The abbey was founded as a Savigniac house, became Cistercian in 1147, and is inseparably linked with the name of Armand-Jean de Rancé, the great monastic reformer and founder of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. When he became abbot of La Trappe in 1664, he brought with him many of his own books and had a new library built to house the monastic collection. Rancé died in 1700. Other books were then added over time until, in 1752, the abbey possessed about 4,300 volumes. The detailed catalogue is divided into two parts. The first part lists the books by subject, beginning, as might be expected, with bibles; the second part lists the same books by author. The information presented in this study of the abbey and its library is of first importance not only for understanding the nature and development of Cistercian intellectual and spiritual life, but also for the history of early modern libraries and the development of library cataloguing.

Table of Contents




List of Abbreviations

Chapter One. The Foundation of the Abbey and the Medieval Library

Chapter Two. Rance and his Books

Chapter Three. The Library of La Trappe from Rance to 1752 33

Chapter Four. The Library of La Trappe from 1752 to the French Revolution

Chapter Five. The Date and Contents of the Library

Chapter Six. The Cistercian Dimension

Principles of the Edition

Catalogue des Livres de la Bibliotheque de la Trappe: Par Ordre des Matieres.

Catalogue des Livres de la Bibliotheque de la Trappe: Par Ordre Alphabetique 

Select Bibliography

The 1752 Catalogue: Index of Manuscripts

The 1752 Catalogue: Index of Authors

General Index to Chapters One to Six


"The catalogue thus becomes a rich mine of information about both the literature generated during the Trappist reform and the main spiritual and theological writings of the period." (Elias Dietz, in: Sehepunkte, 15 (2015), Nr. 1 [15.01.2015])

"This is an immensely detailed study on a somewhat recherché topic. It contains much valuable information for those interested in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century religious and book culture" (Alexandra Barratt, in: Parergon, 32.1, 2015, p. 221-222)

"David N. Bell offers his readers a carefully crafted edition of the 1752 Catalogue of the library of the Abbey of La Trappe, along with some introductory chapters providing a picture of both the history and the contents of the monastic library from its origins down to the times of the French Revolution. (...) Therefore, David Bell’s edition of this catalogue is a significant contribution to the knowledge of monastic libraries at the end of the Modern Era. Historians interested in Church history, cultural studies, or the history of books and libraries will profit indeed of this work." (Fr. J. Molina, in: Scriptorium 2015/01, nr. 26)

“This book constitutes an excellent edition of an eighteenth-century library catalogue. (…) The book is elegantly set out.” (William Duba, in The Medieval Review, 08.05.2016)

« L’étude est (…) d’un grand intérêt (…) Ce travail soigné est précédé d’une intéressante introduction historique et d’une précieuse analyse critique. » (Stéphane Lecouteux dans Francia-Recensio, 3, 2016)


« Cet ouvrage est donc à recommander vivement à tous ceux qui s’intéressent aux bibliothèques de l’Ancien Régime et il ne reste plus qu’à souhaiter que D. N. Bell se tourne rapidement vers d’autres bibliothèques cisterciennes. » (Monique Peyrafort-Huin, dans Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 57, 2014, p. 457) 



Interest Classification:
Book History, Manuscript Studies & Palaeography
Libraries & Archives : history & collections
Library Catalogues : manuscripts
Catalogues of manuscripts for an institution
Religion (including History of Religion) & Theology
Christian Church : religious orders
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : local & regional history

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