Vanderbilt acquired the Gilbert Sigaux Collection of 20th-century French theater material in 1986 through the generosity of the Friends of the Library. The former W.T. Bandy Center director and other members of the French faculty were acquainted with Sigaux and his family and suggested that his collected materials would complement and enhance Vanderbilt's French collections.
Gilbert Sigaux (1918–1982) was an editor, critic, and author of books on topics ranging from tourism to vaudeville, the French Resistance, and 19th- and 20th-century theater. He was a professor of theater history at the Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique in Paris and secretary of the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques. He edited over 100 literary and dramatic texts for publication and served as literary editor and consultant for several French publishing companies. His prefaces, critical notes, and other editorial additions appear in works by Alexandre Dumas, Georges Simenon, and Henrik Ibsen, among others. He collaborated on anthologies, composed entries for reference works, contributed articles to journals and newspapers, wrote essays, and published four novels. A colleague wrote of Sigaux, "A day in the life of Gilbert Sigaux was a frightening thing. Frightening for someone who cannot sustain such a rhythm, accomplish so much work, such varied work. In a single day, Gilbert wrote (original fiction, articles, erudite texts, not to mention the correspondence), telephoned, traveled, edited, taught, ran, negotiated, read, cut out printed materials, filed, and helped others. His days were too short and his nights even shorter."
Sigaux gathered an enormous personal library of play texts, books, and documents in various media on French theater. Complementary topics include architecture, painting, philosophy, ballet, opera, cinema, and the circus. The Sigaux Collection contains approximately 6,000 volumes, including monographs, theater journals, and over 75,000 items in the dossier files on authors, directors, actors, and theaters. The range of materials in each category is wide enough to encompass, for instance, Sarah Bernhardt and Bridgette Bardot in the actors' files.
With the establishment of the Sigaux Collection, Jacques Sigaux lectured at Vanderbilt on his father's life and his legacy in contemporary French theater. The lectures added a personal dimension to the importance of the collection. Interestingly, "Jacky" Sigaux is a producer at the Café Théâtre de la Gare in Paris.
Gilbert Sigaux participated in the intellectual life of his time with a scope and depth that make him a key chronicler of 20th-century French arts and letters. According to Dan M. Church, Emeritus Professor of French at Vanderbilt, "The collection represents the single most valuable resource for research on theater in France in the 20th century."
Collection Profile: Yvonne Boyer
Overview: Juanita G. Murray
Illustrations: Henry Shipman