Cornell's Maurepas Collection is based upon a large and important segment of the ministerial papers of Jean Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas et de Pontchartain (1701-1781). Until 1962 these papers had been maintained largely intact but in private hands. In that year they were dispersed, with the bulk of the Secretary's general correspondence and the materials related to the King's Household going to the Archives Nationales in Paris. The extremely important naval papers were, however, held back and auctioned at Parke-Bernet Galleries of New York on March 6 of the same year.

Through the generosity of Arthur H. and Mary Marden Dean, Cornell was able to take advantage of a unique opportunity and acquire the bulk of this naval archive -- a total of 652 items, including most of the important lots and individual pieces. In 1968 the Deans added to the collection a second block of material consisting of 42 pieces of family correspondence not included in the 1962 sale.

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