Museum's history

Two books from the museum's collections: With a little more than 18,000 handwritten letters, correspondence is a major feature of the museum’s manuscript collections. The museum has therefore undertaken an ambitious digitization project to make this heritage, which takes us into the private world of the great man, more easily available to the public.

This rich and varied collection makes the museum, which also provides logistical support for the publication of Victor Hugo’s correspondence, highly specific.
With the creation of the museum in mind,  Paul Meurice had collected numerous documents from Victor Hugo’s contemporaries and the autograph market, thus laying down the basis of an autograph collection. It was enlarged by the addition of several family donations: that of Victor Hugo’s granddaughter Jeanne in the 1920s, that of Jean Hugo, in 1950 and 1953, and that of Paul Meurice’s granddaughter, Annette Langlois-Berthelot. Bibliophiles and booklovers have also made their contributions in addition to the purchases made by the museum.
Family correspondence makes up a large part, but a very diverse range of correspondents is also present: writers (Dumas, George Sand, Alfred  de Vigny, Baudelaire, Verlaine…) artists (Boulanger,  David d’Angers, Devéria, Clesinger, Chifflart …), politicians (Victor Schoelcher, Louis Blanc, Adolphe Thiers…), and people from the theatre (Mademoiselle George,  Frédéric Lemaître,  Marie Dorval, Sarah Bernhardt...). Some particularly substantial collections stand out, such as the exchanges between Hugo and his sister-in-law, Julie Chenay, who acted as steward of Hauteville-House (Georges Ravault donation) and, of course, that with his loyal friend Paul Meurice whose connections with the family are also revealed in many of Charles Hugo’s letters.
Love letters are also represented with 28 of Victor Hugo’s letters to Léonie Biard, in which he gives free rein to his burning passion. Most importantly, however, the museum holds more than 1,000 letters from Juliette Drouet, the 4,176 sheets of which are today directly accessible online.