The Desbillons collection is the most important historic collection in the holdings of Mannheim University Library and was hold by the French Jesuit priest François-Joseph Terrasse Desbillons (1711–1789).
Desbillons left France in 1764 after the prohibition of his order and moved to Mannheim following an invitation by the elector Carl Theodor. He was well known to the contemporary audience as a writer of fables, considered himself an opponent of the enlightenment, and brought with him a large, continuously expanding collection of books to Mannheim.
His collection comprises all fields of knowledge at that time and includes books about history as well as ethnography, theology, law and literature. The contemporary classification is still available and allows a browsing of the holdings.
Project „Digitalization of Travel Accounts from the Desbillons Collection“
Travelogues and ethnographic descriptions are characteristic for this collection. Desbillons’ interest of these texts is explained by his religious affiliation : global missionary activity was a major task for Jesuits which they reported on their overseas locations to the central administration of the religious order. The travelogues and contemporary ethnographic studies are important texts for the cultural sciences dealing with the possibilities and limits of understanding different cultural contexts and transformation processes.
800 historic travelogues are digitized from 2012 to 2014 with financial support from the German Research Foundation. The project is hosted by the Mannheim University Library. The digitization was performed by Herrmann & Kraemer.