Les procès-verbaux du Bureau des longitudes

The corpus

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Our site makes available a vast heritage of digital minutes of meetings of the Bureau des longitudes between 1795 and 1932. These documents relate the history of this institution and the scientific developments associated with it. They make up a corpus of unique scientific archives of great historical and scientific interest which can be used to trace the evolution of scientific activities in the fields of astronomy, geodesy, geophysics, navigation and metrology. They also help understand how scientific and technological knowledge in France was administered from the end of the XVIIIth century to the start of the XXth century.

This corpus includes 2 notebooks, 7 registers and 19 bound volumes of documents put on tab containing the originals and copies of the minutes of meetings of the Bureau des longitudes and their annexes. The following note appears on all the registers and volumes until 1899: "M. Farcy, secrétaire bibliothecaire"[1]

To reproduce the experience as close as possible to actually reading the original documents for online users, we chose to reproduce blank sheets, bindings and other elements of conditioning. Each collection corresponds to a volume, register or notebook and the order in which the documents are classified corresponds to the way they were set out originally.

However, as we chose to present these documents in intellectual units (rather than as pages), an annex to the minutes is treated as an independent appendix to the minutes. These rare cases are an exception to our rule for document presentation and are flagged up with a note.

Please note! The order of presentation of documents generally corresponds to the chronological order of the meetings but this is not systematically the case.

We would also like to draw your attention to the meaning of the field Membres presents. As set out in the minutes of the meeting of April 3rd 1872 (copies), members who were sent on missions by the Bureau des longitudes could be considered as present "according to the right to possess tokens for their presence at meeting". The fact that their name is in this field does not necessarily mean that they actually attended the meeting concerned.

Eventually all the online documents will be fully transcribed. Currently transcriptions are available up to the date of August 9th 1854. This work was carried out by Jean-Marie Feurtet. ). In the period for which we possess both the original documents and copies, transcriptions were carried out using the original minutes. In the case of copies, notable differences may therefore exist between the transcription and the text of the file.

For the period after August 9th 1854, the documents are being transcribed by Julien Muller and we have chosen to keep the codes used by Jean-Marie Feurtet such as the [square brackets] which signify additions by the transcriber (a crossed-out or hidden text, a text written in a margin or a missing word) and <angle brackets> which highlight passages which have include added text. For this second period, we also made sure to transcribe the original text as faithfully as possible leaving all original abbreviations, misspelled terms and wrongly constructed phrases. If necessary, texts are added between square brackets to clarify the meaning of the original text. 

There are footnotes on certain transcriptions which correspond to complementary information provided by the transcriber and not to the original documents' footnotes which are given between square brackets.

Apart from some very rare exceptions, all of the documents in this corpus are written in French.

The following table gives a general overview of the corpus:

Original registers 1795-1804 2 registers 435 files 613 intellectual units

These two registers are divided into two notebooks or two parts (intellectual divisions) each and are conserved in a conditioning box which reproduces the binding of the original volumes from the 1804-1932 period. They contain no annexed documents and just the minutes of meetings. All the pages are hand-written.

Volumes of originals from 1804-1932 put on tab 19 volumes in folio

18335 files

6003 intellectual units

These nineteen volumes have a dyed green leather binding for the volumes from 1804 to 1913 (the original volumes for the period between October 26th 1853 and February 9th 1876 are not available) and a black canvas binding for the volumes from 1914 to 1932. Each volume contains a set of intellectual units put on tab or separately conditioned (8 such units are separately conditioned) and which can be made up of one or several sheets and/or double sheets. Generally, an intellectual unit is put on tab but in certain cases, several intellectual units were put on the same tab.

The documents are mainly minutes but there are also annexed documents of different sorts such as reports, notes, letters, studies, press cuttings, calling cards, speeches, schemas, projects, memoirs, rough minutes documents, forms, added documents, etc. Notes were added a posteriori on certain documents and sometimes quillings have been stuck or partially stuck to the documents. The majority of these documents are hand-written but there are also printed or typed documents (particularly from the start of the XXth century onwards).

N.B.: for the 1886-1890 volume, attendance sheets were used to include the names of the members present at the meeting.

Registers of copies 1804-1881

7 registers

in folio

2832 files

3979 intellectual units

These 7 registers are bound in leather which is dyed green. They include the copies of minutes of meetings which took place between 1804 and 1881. The minutes were recopied one after the other.

The majority of the documents are minutes but there are also some annexed documents of varied nature and formats - reports, notes, letters, drawings, etc. Certain annexed documents have not been separated from the minutes they were attached to (the same intellectual unit) and in such cases there is a note indicating their presence. Notes which were added a posteriori on the documents are written in pencil. All the pages are handwritten.

Here is some general information on the technical parameters of the documents which have been put online:

- colour scans (24 bits per pixel) RVB;

- JPEG files;

- 400 dpi (or ppp);

- raw images which have not been retouched and were scanned at their real size (certain documents were restored before scanning).

The Omeka search engine makes it possible to run a search on all the content and metadata with transcriptions included. It can also be used to run advanced searches. For further details, please see the FAQ.

Theme-based exhibitions will be used to enhance the value of certain contents. They will be aimed at a broad audience and will tell a story to which the archive documents testify.


[1] Mr. Farcy, secretary and librarian