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French Language and Literature: Books

This guide aims to provide an introduction to essential library and electronic resources for French studies at Oxford


The majority of books held by the Bodleian Libraries, in both physical and electronic formats, can be searched for via SOLO. If you are new to Oxford libraries or to SOLO, we recommend visiting the 'Getting Started' and 'How to' guides at the links below.

Physical books

The following tabs list Oxford libraries with physical collections of interest to those studying French. Collections access and borrowing privileges are subject to conditions; please check individual library websites for further information.

For those wishing to learn more about searching for physical collections in Oxford, we recommend the following:

Electronic books (ebooks)

Ebooks are digital manifestations of written works. Broadly speaking they come in two forms: they are either 'born digital' or are digital reproductions of printed books. Many have enhanced functionality, while some have restrictive access and usage terms.

The links below are provided for those wishing to learn more about ebooks, while the following tabs list ebook collections and platforms relevant to to those studying French.

The following is a list of ebook collections applicable to those studying French at Oxford. We recommend visiting Databases A-Z for a full breakdown of eresource packages, including trials and new arrivals, available to Oxford University members.

A selection of reference works useful to those studying French.

A number of eresources, including ebook collections, are freely available online. Some of these are indexed in Databases A-Z and can be identified by the following icon:

A blue globe symbol indicating that a eresource is online and freely available to all.

A selection of other free ebook collections, not listed on Databases A-Z, are also given below.

How to locate books

The Taylorian Research Collection and the Taylorian Teaching Collection:

Undergraduates:  In order to locate books on the shelves you will need to find out the shelfmark by looking your title up on SOLO. When you have looked up your title you can go to the shelves in the Modern Languages Teaching Collection if a copy is available there. 

There are different ways of referring to to the Teaching Collection. At one time it was called the Modern Languages Faculty library or MLF.  Some people might refer to it as the Undergraduate Collection. 

If you cannot find a copy in the Teaching Collection, and if the Taylor has a copy, you can go to the Research Collection of the Taylor Institution Library upstairs. You may browse in the Research Collection (also known as 'The stacks') and take books for borrowing.

Graduates: Provided you are registered, you may go straight to the Research Collection. You may also borrow from the Teaching Collection.


All:  Remember that the SOLO catalogue gives you access to French books and books about French literature in other languages in all the libraries in Oxford that have French books, periodicals and newspapers. It includes both the collections at the Taylor Institution Library,  the Bodleian Library, Maison Francaise and a number of college libraries.

The Taylorian classification schemes explained:

There are several classification schemes in the Taylor. New books in the Research collection and  the Teaching collection are classified according to a standard version of the Library of Congress classification scheme used across all  the Bodleian libraries. LC French shelfmarks begin with the letters PC (for French language) and PQ (for French literature). Older books in both collections are classified according to in-house schemes. Typically these shelfmarks begin with two letters separated by a forward slash ie a A/A, L/N etc. For more information about the French shelfmarks both old and new schemes look at the complete lists in the top right-hand corner of this page (Classification Schemes).

If you come across a shelfmark in the SOLO catalogue beginning TNR or REP. SLAV, this means that the book is kept out at the Bodleian's Book Storage Facility (BSF) and you will have to do a stack request.  As more and more books are stored off-site this is becoming increasingly common but doing a stack-request is not difficult. See SOLO help-pages, look under the 'Searching and ordering' tab and scroll down to 'How do I order from the closed stacks'. The good news is that if you order in the morning the book should arrive the following afternoon.

Other catalogues

If you cannot find the book on SOLO, you could try looking for it on Library Hub Discover which is a union online catalogue of UK national, academic and specialist libraries. Incidentally, it used to be known as COPAC.

Going even further afield, WorldCat covers libraries throughout the world and includes millions of records representing 400 languages. Worldcat is to be found in Databases A-Z. This is the librarians' favourite catalogue because it is so comprehensive so why don't you give it a try?

KVK (Karlsruher virtueller Katalog) is another union catalogue covering academic and national libraries throughout Europe and beyond.

If you cannot find a particular text in Oxford - particularly an older one, i.e. 19th century and earlier -  you may sometimes be able to find it in full-text on an electronic library such as Gallica. This is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and gives access to over 90,000 items of printed material (books, periodicals, newspapers etc).

If you think the book you are looking for might be in a regional library in France you could try the French union catalogue: Catalogue collectif France. This catalogue incidentally subsumes the BnF catalogue, which can also be searched on its own through the BnF website. However, why not try the Catalogue collectif de France - you might discover something that you had no idea existed!

Book recommendations & inter-library loans

If the Bodleian Libraries don't have the book you are looking for, you can make a recommendation by completing the form below (Single-Sign On required). Alternatively we may be able to source it through Oxford's inter-library loan service.

Why are some books not available electronically?

There are a number of reasons why the Bodleian Libraries may be unable to provide electronic access to a resource. The Social Science Library have produced a brief, digestible blog post explaining some of these reasons: