The numerous facets of the work of Lavoisier (1743-1794)

At the Archives of the Academy of Science in Paris The Archives of the Academy of Science in Paris, (23 quai Conti, 75006 Paris). under the responsability of Christiane Demeulenaere-Douyère, Curator, keeps in the Lavoisier Collection more than 2000 shelf-marks, including scientific papers, manuscripts concerning chemistry, mineralogy, geology, meteorology, 14 laboratory books, and the original manuscript of the Opuscules Physiques et Chymiques, the Traité élémentaire de chimie and the Réflexions sur l'instruction publique.

When Lavoisier was condemned to death by the Revolutionnary Tribunal on Thursday, May 8, 1794, his property and papers were confiscated by the Republic. On 9 Thermidor (July 27), the same year, came Robespierre's downfall. Then Madame Lavoisier with the help of Abbé Morellet fought to obtain the restauration of her husband property. By April 1796, she had recovered all the papers that had been seized. When she died, on February 10, 1836, aged 78 years, her property went to Gabrielle Ramey de Sugny, her brother's granddaughter. This lady married Léon de Chazelles, who was a close friend of Jean-Baptiste Dumas. The two men published Lavoisier's papers. The two first volumes appeared in 1862 and 1864; the two last volumes in 1892 and 1893.

Then, it was decided to publish Lavoisier's correspondance and Édouard Grimaux was responsible for this. But in 1894, the Dreyfus case was the occasion of a conflict between Grimaux, who was in favor of Dreyfus, and the family. And for sixty years the correspondance waited.

In 1948, the Academy of Sciences gave responsability to René Fric and to a Comité Lavoisier for the publication of the correspondance. The first volume (1768-1769) appeared in 1955, the second (1770-1775) in 1957, the third (1776-1783) in 1964. René Fric died in 1970 and it was only in 1986 that a new Comité Lavoisier, with Léon Velluz, Alain Horeaux and Michelle Goupil published volume IV (1784-1786); volume V (1787-1788) appeared in 1993; Patrice Bret published volume VI (1789-1791) in 1997 and the publication of two more volumes is in progress.

In 1993 a number of missing letters and a vast amount of unpublished information was made available when le comte Guy de Chabrol donated more than 1000 documents to the Archives of the Paris Academy of Science, and 350 of Lavoisier's manuscripts, which had been lost for 25 years, were returned. These latter papers had been discovered in Clermont-Ferrand, spilling forth from a wall cupboard plastered over for years in the house of René Fric, the editor of the three first volumes of Lavoisier's correspondence.

Among other sources of documents concerning Lavoisier in France, must be mentioned the Archives Nationales, the Departmental and Municipal Archives, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the National Assembly Library, the Bibliothèque Mazarine, the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, the Bibliothèque Cujas, the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Paris as well as the libraries at the Sorbonne, the Institut de France, the Cité des Sciences, the Museum of Natural History, the Academy of Medicine, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Pharmacy, the Arsenal, the National Conservatory of Arts and Trades and the French Society of Agriculture, the departmental archives and municipal libraries located in Clermont-Ferrand, Orléans, Blois, Limoges and Angoulême.

In United Kingdown

In London, the British Library and the Royal Society Library and Archives make available sources concerning contributions by Joseph Black, Joseph Priestley, Richard Kirwan, David MacBride, John Pringle, Stephen Hales, Charles Blagden, and many others. The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh provides valuable testimony on James Hall's sojourn in Paris during the Revolution and the frequent contacts he had with Lavoisier.

In the United States

In the United States, a prime source of information is the Lavoisier Collection at Cornell University. 324 manuscripts, including Jean Etienne Guettard's records of the geological investigations with Lavoisier, unpublished lecture notes of Guillaume François Rouelle and Joseph Black, Lavoisier's laboratory worksheets recording the experiments on the large-scale decomposition and synthesis of water carried out with Jean Baptiste Meusnier in 1785, letters and reports on Mesmerism, and such diverse topics as street lighting, the effects of heat, meteorology, the decimal system, and the new weights and measures. Furthermore, Lavoisier's participation in public affairs -the General Farm, the Gunpowder and Saltpeter Administration, the Discount Bank, the Committee on Agriculture, the Orléans Provincial Assembly - is distinctly reflected in the wealth of correspondence, notes, invoices, receipts and leases that can be seen there. The printed material of the collection consists of 1288 titles contained in 2012 volumes, and makes up more than 90 percent of the 705 entries in the standard Bibliography of the Works of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier by Duveen and Klickstein (London, 1954) and its Supplement (London, 1965). Using this same material, Marco Beretta recently published Bibliotheca Lavoisieriana. The Catalogue of the Library of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, which sheds new light on the nature and impact of Lavoisier's sources.

Two other American sources of documents regarding Lavoisier and his epoch are the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University. In the former can be found manuscripts written by Quesnay, Turgot, and Du Pont de Nemours. Fruitful visits can be made to other libraries in the United States; in particular the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia, the Princeton University Library, the New York Public Library, and the Rockefeller University Library.