Tag Archives: France

The magic lantern, la rareté merveilluse, fraai curieus!

Savoiardi colla Lanterna Magica, held by the British Museum (1890,0415.254)

If the language of cinema is universal, then one may say the same of the magic lantern show. The magic lantern, an early type of image projector, was a precursor to motion picture film projectors. Traveling magic lantern performers of the 18th and 19th centuries, also sometimes known as “Savoyards”, were a common sight in European cities. Often accompanied by an assistant who performed live music during the show, these performers projected hand-painted slides of popular tales in the darkened rooms of private homes using techniques borrowed from magic, pupeteering, and the theater.

One could also argue that political satire is universal. Both visual artists and pamphleteers of the 18th century co-opted the image of the magic lantern in acerbic works that satirized contemporary politics and culture. These often anonymous artists and authors acted, in a sense, as magic lantern projectionists and became the lens through which politics and society were examined and critiqued.

La Lanterne magique patriotique (Case FRC 17560)

Several pamphlets in the Newberry Library‘s French pamphlet collections are satires which build upon the theme and aesthetic of the magic lantern. One such example in the French Revolution Collection is La Lanterne magique patriotique, ou, Le Coup de grace de l’aristocratie by Antoine Dorfeuille (Case FRC 17560). Dorfeuille was a comedic actor, dramaturge, and revolutionary who was killed during counter-revolutionary violence in 1795 in the wake of the Reign of Terror. In this satire of the French aristocracy, Dorfeuille co-opts the language of the magic lantern showman to humorous effect.

Woodcut from La Lanterne magique patriotique (Case FRC 17560)

Included in this pamphlet is a crude woodcut of a magic lantern projecting an image of Lady Liberty. An English translation of the caption below the woodcut follows:

[Frenchmen, it's Lady Liberty!

"The print is very bad," the aristocracy will say;

"Yes, but the idea is good," Reason will say.]

Pasted in at p. 24 of this pamphlet is an expanded, alternate version of the text printed below it on Louis XVI and the aristocracy. This text pleads for the king to ignore the counsel of the coterie of aristocrats and diplomats, sometimes derisively called the comité autrichien (“Austrian Committee”), who surrounded him at court and harbored royalists sympathies that ran counter to many of the tenets of the French Revolution.

La Lanterne magique patriotique, p. 24 alternate text (Case FRC 17560)

[Do you see Louis XVI, who follows the cart on foot and seems to be pushing it along, all while the "Austrian Committee" throws rocks to impede his passage? Do you see the vertigo that overcomes him all of a sudden? ... Do you see the patriotism that awakens, that spurs ahead, that runs after him, that stops him, and that cries out to him, "Where are you going, monarch who has been led astray?" What better place is there than at the bosom of your people? ... Weak king, be brave; don't listen to bad counsel anymore, neither from  bad priests nor from your villainous wife: one little push and the machine will roll.]

The magic lantern also makes an appearance in the Pamfletten-Verzameling, a collection of mostly Dutch pamphlets at the Newberry that deal with the history of the Netherlands and this country’s relations with other European nations. Lanterne magique, of, Toverlantaern (F 46 .665 v. 26 no. 35) is a satirical Dutch periodical published in 20 issues in 1782 and 1783. It satirizes the politics of the day, including the strained relations between Great Britain and the Netherlands during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784), and makes many allusions to the newly formed United States, to which the Netherlands informally allied itself during the American Revolutionary War.

Lanterne magique, of, Toverlantaern (F 46 .655 v. 26 no. 35)

This periodical is written in the “Savoyard” language, or “Koeterwaals,” a comical gibberish mix of French and Dutch that was used by traveling magic lantern showmen from Wallonia. ( See media researcher Thomas Weynant’s Early Visual Media for translated excepts from the work of Dutch literary historian André Hanou on “Koeterwaals” and the relationship between satire, politics, and the magic lantern.)

It is not too late to experience an authentic magic lantern show. Magic lantern collector and performer Herman Bollaert has resurrected the art of the magic lantern show in Belgium, complete with “Koeterwaals,” in his live production, Magica Lanterna Galantee Show.

not-so-revolutionary diagnostics

For your consideration: a handbill (Case FRC 27552) describing the medical training and expertise of physician Antoine-François Maillet.

Case FRC 27552

Dr. Maillet lists a copious repertoire of maladies he is capable of treating and, at the end, invites prospective patients to send him urine samples for diagnosis.  It would seem he was peripatetic (or perhaps just prudent), since the printed text leaves his domicile blank.  In the Newberry’s copy, “Il est logé chez” is completed in manuscript with “Bonnet a Riom”– presumably Saint-Bonnet-près-Riom.

Case FRC 27552

Uroscopy, a diagnostic method practiced since antiquity, was still in use at the turn of the 20th century, as this doctor’s test case shows.  For every 500 pamphlets in FRC with the Library of Congress Subject Heading of, say, “Taxation–France–Early Works to 1800,” there will  be one with completely novel subject matter.  This pamphlet was the first “Urine–Diagnostic use–France–Early works to 1800 ” that I’ve come across in two years.  It is rivaled in novelty only, perhaps, by the subject heading  “Uterus–Religious aspects–Drama–Early works to 1800 ” that came up for two oratorios in the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection.

Sauts des mariés and fêtes baladoires: customs arcane and illicit

With the French Revolution Collection (FRC) all but cataloged in full, our primary task now is to deal with the hundreds of duplicates set aside over the course of the three year CLIR project.  In the end it was decided that the integrity of the collection was worth preserving, so all duplicates will be retained.

For bibliographic records pre-dating the project, we’ll be recataloging, but CLIR records require merely adding holdings records in Voyager.  The latter is a simple matter, potentially tedious but quick enough to allow for a satisfyingly high level of productivity.   This alacrity makes it easy to simply skim the titles, but occasionally — as with the monkey and nun that (metaphorically) leaped from the pages of a Saint-Sulpice volume last year — a an unusual word or two demand attention.  For Case folio FRC 27535, my eye was caught by (literally) jumping newlyweds:

Ruling of the Cour de Parlement that prohibits all persons, of whatever quality and condition they may be, to require newlyweds, resident in the parish of Verruyes, to jump, on the day of Pentecost or any other day, over any hole; and that equally prohibits any newlyweds from presenting themselves to make the jump [...]

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

As the 1786 arrêt goes on to describe it, the hole is to be at least half full of water, of a depth of about 12 feet or more, and if the newlyweds fail to make the jump they must each pay a fine of 60 sols.   One can’t help but agree with the court  that the custom “can do nothing but result in very great impropriety … regarding both the danger incurred by jumping … and the fear that may precipitate paying  the fine.”

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

The ruling also notes that the saut des mariés can be considered nothing but a “fête baladoire” which are already outlawed.   One such decree (conveniently available online via the French national library’s Gallica bibliothèque numérique) sheds light on what fêtes baladoires might entail, describing in some detail the disruptive hijinks in a particular area.

Arrest de la cour du Parlement défend les fêtes baladoires, les attroupements et assemblées illicites ... (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The decree pertains to assemblies

that could be regarded as fêtes baladoires (licentious festivals), during marrages and baptisms; that the inhabitants tumultuously gather together armed with rifles and pistols, having rockets and firecrackers, and lighting fires in different places around the parishes; that around the days of carnival the boys of the parishes go out looking for girls in the places where they are assembled, with drums, fifes, and horns, traversing during the night all the quarters of their villages leading around masked and disguised girls, and going from village to village; that the inhabitants of Couilly assembled in a cabaret where they wrote and composed defamatory libels that they had distributed; that during carnival they had an inhabitant of Couilly mount an ass [...] carrying and representing his effigy, which they burned, extorting from this inhabitant the sum of 60 livres, and then they assembled in the cabarets where they made a tumult and drank all night [...]

The high spirits — particularly the libel and effigy-burning — sound much like the 1791 case of the carementran in Crest that cropped up almost exactly a year ago.  Somehow these crop up on our work flow just after Ash Wednesday.  Go figure.


Carêmentran and due process

Some pamphlets open an unexpected window on cultural traditions.  A case in point is FRC 23254: Discours de M. le commissaire du roi près le tribunal du district de la ville de Crest, département de Drôme, prononcé a l’audience publique, le 16 mars 1791.  The tribunal of Crest was called to consider a case of egregious defamation of character. On the morning of Ash Wednesday, 9 March 1791, two youths had gone around town decrying a certain Doctor Guibert, announcing that they planned to make of him a Carementran. They returned to the streets in the afternoon—“ridiculously disguised and leading a chariot that supported an effigy or phantom, larger than life, having a rope around its neck, the ends of which extended back and were attached to the chariot, and presented the disgusting image of a man being led to the gallows.”  With a large crowd gathered, the effigy of Dr. Guibert was then burned.

The  Carêmentran (Carême entrant=coming of Lent) is a central feature of mardi gras celebrations in France.  It is an effigy, often called Monsieur Carnaval, that is accused of all the evils of the past year and then burned to expiate these sins.  This marvelous account of a recent carnaval celebration in Romans shows what such a Carementran might look like, both before and after immolation.

The two angry youths in Crest, perhaps hungover from mardi gras revelry, had taken their grievances against the doctor to the public square in the most graphic and incendiary way possible. The breach of the peace was bad enough, but it had been done in the name of personal animus.  The tribunal hammered home the point that that complaints against fellow citizens must be made by legal means, not by appeals to mob rule.  Two great maxims from the constitution, they write, should be engraved on all hearts in fiery letters: “Tous les hommes sont égaux devant la loi…. Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions….”

Reference sources for French printing and publishing

One of the Newberry Library‘s core collection strengths is the history of printing and the books arts.  Notable among the Newberry’s core collections is the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, which includes more than 100,000 volumes of technical literature and periodicals, 600 cubic feet of archival material, 650 calligraphic manuscripts and 2,100 printed volumes on calligraphy, 68,000 volumes of printing samples, and more than 15,000 items of printed ephemera.

One of the four pamphlet collections that we are cataloging for this project–the Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials–forms part of the Wing collection.  Our other French pamphlet collections complement the printing history materials in the Wing collection and contain examples of engraving and relief printing, provincial imprints, and examples of printers’ devices and type ornaments from the 16th to 19th centuries.  We have used many bibliographies, dictionaries, and other reference sources to research printers, booksellers, and publishers in France, and I would like to share those resources with anyone who may be interested in French printing history.

Arbour, Roméo. Dictionnaire des femmes libraires en France, 1470-1870. Genève: Droz, 2003. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .A67 2003)

Women printers, booksellers, and bookbinders.  A limited preview is also available online via Google Books.

Barbier, Frédéric. Lumières du nord: imprimeurs, libraires et “gens du livre” dans le nord au XVIIIe siècle (1701-1789). Genève: Droz, 2002. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .B37 2002)

Printers, booksellers, and other involved in the book trade in northern France.  A limited preview is available online via Google Books.

Baudrier, Henri-Louis. Bibliographie lyonnaise: recherches sur les imprimeurs, libraires, relieurs et fondeurs de lettres de Lyon au XVIe siècle. Lyon: Librairie ancienne d’Auguste Brun, 1895-1921. (Newberry Library call number: Case Wing Z 3239 .L994)

Delalain, P. L’imprimerie et la librairie à Paris de 1789 à 1813. Paris:  Delalain frères, 1900. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .P2131)

A great resource for researching printers active during the French Revolution and the First French Empire.  It is also available online in full via Google Books.

Delalain, P. Les libraires & imprimeurs de l’Académie française de 1634 à 1793. Paris: A. Picard et fils, 1907. (Neberry Library call number: Wing Z 3108 .223)

Desgraves, Louis. Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et relieurs de la Dordogne, des Landes, du Lot-et-Garonne et des Pyrénées-Atlantiques (XVe-XVIIIe siècles). Baden-Baden;  Bouxwiller: Editions V. Koerner, 2005. (Newberry Library call number: Z145.D67 D47 2005)

Desgraves, Louis. Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au XVIIIe siècle. Baden-Baden; Bouxwiller: V. Koerner, 1988- (Newberry Library call number: Z1016 .D48 1988)

Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre à Paris, 1701-1789. Genève: Droz, 2007- (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z305 .D53 2007)

Detailed biographical entries for numerous Parisian printers of the 18th century prior to the Revolution.  A limited preview of the first volume is also available online via Google Books.

Forestié, Emerand. Histoire de l’imprimerie et de la librairie à Montauban. Montauban: É. Forestié, 1898. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .M76)

Printing and bookselling in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, 1518-1874.  Also freely available online via Google Books.

Labadie, Ernest. Notices biographiques sur les imprimeurs et libraires bordelais des XVI., XVII. et XVIII. siècles. Bordeaux: M. Mounastre-Picamilh, 1900. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .B645)

Printers and booksellers in the Bordeaux region, 16th-18th century; in Bordeaux and Gironde, 19th century.  Freely available online via Google Books.

Lepreux, Georges. Gallia typographica, ou, Répertoire biographique et chronologique de tous les imprimeurs de France depuis les origines de l’imprimerie jusqu’à la Révolution. Paris: H. Champion, 1909-14. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .5)

Lhote, Amédée. Histoire de l’imprimerie à Châlons-sur-Marne. Chalons-sur-Marne: Martin frères; Paris: A. Claudin, 1894. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 3239 .C355)

Biographical and bibliographical notices on booksellers, printers, publishers, and binders of Châlons-sur-Marne, 1488-1894.   Also available online in full via Google Books.

Lottin, Augustin-Martin. Catalogue chronologique des libraires et des libraires-imprimeurs de Paris, depuis l’an 1470, époque de l’établissement de l’imprimerie dans cette capitale, jusqu’à présent. Paris: Chez Jean-Roch Lottin de St. Germain, 1789. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 46739 .523)

Directory of Parisian booksellers and printers, 1470-1788.  Freely available online via Google Books.

Moreau, Brigitte. Inventaire chronologique des éditions parisiennes du XVIe siècle. Paris: Service des travaux historiques de la ville de Paris, 1972- (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z145.P3 M67 1972)

Les Presses grises: la contrefaçon du livre (XVIe-XIXe siècles). Paris: Aux Amateurs de livres, 1988. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z584 .P74 1988)

Pirated editions in France.

Renouard, Philippe. Imprimeurs & librairies parisiens du XVIe siècle. Paris: Service des travaux historiques de la ville de Paris, 1964- (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z305 .R45)

Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au seizième siècle. Baden-Baden: Heitz, 1968-1980. (Newberry Library call number: Ref Z2162 .R4)

Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au XVIIe siècle. Baden-Baden: V. Koerner, 1978- (Newberry Library call number: Z2162 .D47)

Thoinan, Er. Les relieurs français (1500-1800). Paris: E. Paul, L. Huard et Guillemin,  1893. (Newberry Library call number: Wing Z 4339 .755)

Biographical notices on French bookbinders.  Also available online in full via Google Books.

Copyright law, contract disputes, and just a little bit of public intoxication

The Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials contains many different types of source material for the study of 18th-century publishing history in France, from book prospectuses and booksellers’ catalogs to laws and legal opinions related to the activities of the book trade.  The third series of this collection is comprised of 25 lawsuits and legal opinions involving publishers, booksellers, and others involved in the French book trade.

Most of the documents address copyright disputes between publishers or booksellers.  In Mémoire pour le sieur Pillot, libraire juré de l’Université de Paris, contre le sieur Le Boucher, aussi libraire en la même université (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 24), for example, bookseller Jean-Pierre Pillot brings a lawsuit against his brother-in-law Louis Le Boucher after their joint bookselling arrangement dissolved, alleging that Le Boucher took over the copyright of materials which rightly belong to Pillot.

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 13

Devillelles and Balze bring a similar suit against printer Jean-Joseph Niel on behalf of their client Joachim Leblanc in Question a décider pour le sieur Joachim Leblanc, contre le sieur Jean-Joseph Niel, son imprimeur (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 13) regarding a contract dispute over the publication of the Courrier of Avignon.  Typical in this series are lawsuits between publishers or booksellers in which one party alleges that the other has published a pirated edition of a book to which the former holds the exclusive copyright.  Premier mémoire et consultations pour le citoyen Leroy, imprimeur-libraire à Lyon, propriétaire d’une édition du Cours d’agriculture, par Rozier (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 16) and Question de propriété littéraire (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 12) illustrate one such example, in which booksellers Antoine Jeudy Du Gour of Paris and Amable and Michel Le Roy of Lyon dispute who has the right to publish the abbot François Rozier’s Cours complet d’agriculture, théorique, pratique, économique, et de médecine rurale et vétérinaire.

One particularly infamous copyright trial of the early 19th century was the “affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise,” in which publisher Bossange, Masson et Besson accused booksellers Nicolas Moutardier and François-Augustin Leclère of pirating the fifth edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, to which the plaintiff held the copyright.  Bossange, Masson et Besson provide evidence of the defendants’ crime of contrefaçon in Réponse au mémoire des cens. Moutardier et Leclere, contrefacteurs de l’édition du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise, acquise de la Convention par les libraires Smits et compagnie, contre les libraires Bossange, Masson et Besson, acquéreurs de la susdite édition (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 22).

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 8

Delafleutrie debates in Discours prononcé par le citoyen Delafleutrie, substitut du commissaire du gouvernement près le Tribunal criminel, à l’audience du 15 frimaire, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 8) and Second discours prononcé par le cen. Delafleutrie, substitut du commissaire du gouvernement près le Tribunal criminel, à l’audience du 24 frimaire, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 9) whether the French government actually holds the copyright for the dictionary, considering that the Académie française works in service of the government.  Finally, legal scholar Emmanuel Brosselard offers his opinion of the trial in Observations sur le jugement du Tribunal criminel du département de la Seine, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 4), agreeing with the judgment of the Tribunal criminel of the Seine department that Moutardier and Leclère are guilty of copyright infringement.

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 17

In addition to such disputes between publishers or booksellers are contract disputes between authors and publishers.  One such notable example is Mémoire pour le sr Augustin-Martin Lottin, l’aîné, libraire & imprimeur de M. le duc de Berry, intervenant & demandeur, contre M. l’evêque de Noyon, le chapitre de Noyon, & le sr Cuquigny, chanoine, défendeurs (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 17).  Bookseller Augustin-Martin Lottin seeks damages from the bishop and other religious officials of Noyon for the loss of income he sustained from the suspension of the printing of a new Breviary for Noyon.

More intriguing is a 1764 legal dispute between engraver and type founder Pierre François Loiseau and printer Christophe Ballard, outlined in Mémoire pour le sieur Loyseau, graveur & fondeur de caractères d’imprimerie, contre le sieur Ballard, imprimeur du roi, & noteur de la chapelle de Sa Majesté (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 18).  A frustrated Loiseau is incensed that Ballard, who has a long standing, royally sanctioned patent on musical type characters, has accused the former of copying the latter’s characters.  Loiseau includes in his defense a rather tartly worded affidavit signed by several masters of music in praise of Loiseau’s superior music printing, stating, “la musique dudit sr Loyseau imitant parfaitement les plus beaux manuscrits de musique, & étant aussi belle que celle gravée au burin, dont jusquà present nous avons été obligés de nous servir, le public s’étant dégouté depuis longtems de la musique du sieur Ballard, & nous pensons que la musique dudit sieur Loyseau doit d’autant plus mériter la protection des magistrats” (p. 4).

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 23

Last is a legal document covering a topic that is considerably less dry than those dealing with 18th-century copyright law: public intoxication.  While this document has nothing to do with publishing, printing, or any other aspect of the book trade, it places a master bookbinder in a starring role.   Sentence rendue en la Chambre criminelle du Châtelet de Paris, qui condamne Guillaume Maillet, maître relieur, à être blâmé, pour, étant ivre, avoir troublé par des grimaces et gestes indécens l’office divin, le jour de Pâques, dans l’église paroissiale de Saint Hilaire, avoir usé de violence envers le suisse de ladite paroisse, qui vouloit le faire sortir, avoir renversé ledit suisse & lui avoir occasioné la fracture de la rotule, de laquelle fracture ledit suisse restera estropié (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 23) fines master bookbinder Guillaume Maillet 600 livres in damages to doorman Claude Dunan, who sustained a fractured patella as he tried to eject a drunk and brawling Maillet from Easter Mass at the parish church of Saint Hilaire.  Apparently, his hand skills extended beyond the bookbinder’s bench.

Thomas Paine and the trial of Louis XVI

While many Americans are familiar with Thomas Paine as the author of the 1776 political pamphlet Common Sense and as a Founding Father of the United States of America, fewer are familiar with Paine’s French political career.  In gratitude of his ardent support of the French Revolution, the revolutionary government of France granted him honorary French citizenship.  Despite the fact that he could not speak French, Paine was elected as a deputy to the Convention nationale in 1792.

Case Wing DC137.08 .F73 v. 14 no. 3

During the Convention sessions before, during, and, immediately after the trial of Louis XVI, Thomas Paine, like his fellow deputies, published his opinions on whether and how the king should be tried and what punishment the king should receive.  In Opinion de Thomas Payne, député du département de la Somme, concernant le jugement de Louis XVI (Case Wing DC137.08 .F73 v. 14 no. 3), a French translation of his On the propriety of bringing Louis XVI to trial, Paine makes clear his pro-democracy stance.  Louis XVI should receive a fair and unbiased trial, and if he is found guilty, the citizens of France should decide whether or not he should be punished: Je pense qu’il faut faire le procès à Louis XVI, non que cet avis me soit suggéré par un esprit de vengeance … mais parce que cette mesure me semble juste, légitime & conforme à la saine politique.  Si Louis est innocent, mettons-le à portée de prouver son innocence; s’il est coupable, que la volonté nationale determine si l’on doit lui faire grace, ou le punir (p. [5]).  A staunch antimonarchist, Paine disregarded the notion that Louis XVI’s status as a sovereign monarch granted him inviolability and argued that Louis should be subject to the same laws to which all French citizens were subject.

After the Convention nationale found Louis XVI guilty of high treason in December 1792, its deputies next deliberated over how to punish the king and whether the citizens of France should vote directly on this issue.  Two possible forms of punishment emerged from the deliberations: execution or exile.

Case Wing DC137.08 .F73 v. 14 no. 4

Thomas Paine’s Opinion de Thomas Payne, sur l’affaire de Louis Capet (Case Wing DC137.08 .F73 v. 14 no. 4), a French translation of his Reasons for wishing to preserve the life of Louis Capet, argues against the king’s execution for many reasons.  If Louis were executed, Paine argues, there would be nothing to prevent the king’s brothers, Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, comte de Provence (later King Louis XVIII), and Charles, comte d’Artois (later King Charles X), from ascending the throne, thus perpetuating the system of monarchy in France.  He also opposed capital punishment as a vestige of the corruption of monarchy and preferred exile as a way for France to “purger son territoire de rois, sans le souiller de leur sang impur” (p. 6.).  According to Paine, the United States would be an ideal location for Louis XVI’s exile, during which Louis would learn that democracy is the true system of government: Là, désormais, à l’abri des misères & des crimes de la vie royale, il apprendra, par l’aspect continuel de la prospérité publique, que le véritable systême de gouvernement, ce n’est pas les rois, mais la representation (p. 6).

Potato: friend of man and beast

I’m pretty fond of potato-based foods. However, if I’d been alive in late 18th century France, chances are good that I would have needed some coaxing to eat a potato. In fact, the Commission d’agriculture et des arts published a pamphlet entirely dedicated to encouraging the public to understand the benefits of warming to the potato. Entitled Instruction sur la conservation et les usages des pommes-de-terre, this pamphlet outlines the best ways to preserve and serve potatoes to humans and livestock. Written by a team of authors including Claude-Louis Berthollet, it was produced in the Arras district, and directions are printed on the pamphlet to distribute it in every town in the district so that municipal officials could read it aloud to their citizens.

Case FRC 14550

Assuming that the French government could convince farmers to start growing potatoes, the trouble then became how to store the large quantities of potatoes that would be harvested. The pamphlet authors detail seven different preservation techniques, including this method: blanch unwashed potatoes in salted water, peel and slice them, and heat them in a bakery oven. The results will be so solid and dry that they can be kept “through the centuries” in any location without undergoing any significant changes.

When it comes time to eat potatoes, the authors have this straightforward and economical preparation to recommend: steam them and add a little salt. They helpfully add that the inclusion of “butter, fat, lard, or oil, cream, milk, and honey” wouldn’t hurt if you’ve got some handy. The authors stress one of the key qualities of potatoes, which  is their ability to stretch or replace grains, an important feature to highlight when food shortages were striking the populace. To that end, instructions on how to make potato-based porridge and bread appear in this pamphlet as well.

Humans aren’t the only ones to suffer during a grain shortage, and cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, fish, and horses all could benefit from the addition of potatoes to their feed. Farmers were told to serve raw or cooked potatoes to their livestock, though they were reminded to be sure to cut up the potatoes and let them cool a bit first. One of the major points the authors make is that the addition of potatoes would allow the consumption of other types of fodder to be reduced, while helping the animals to gain weight. The comment for horses is also rather charming, stating that as long they grow accustomed to a mixture of potatoes with hay and oats in equal measure, the horses will stamp their hooves (in eager anticipation, I presume) when they see the containers of potato feed being carried toward them.

To reduce dependence on foreign (cooking) oil

Case FRC 10929

De l’huile de faine (Case FRC 10929) was a pamphlet I cataloged early in the project, but it remains a memorable one because I have long been interested in matters culinary. The author, Jacques Antoine Boudin, was a député from the rural Indre region of France who delivered this address to the Convention nationale. Let others discuss France’s widespread financial problems, social inequality, and foreign policy. Boudin had another topic on his mind, or perhaps I should say, in his stomach: beechnut oil.

According to Boudin, olive oil, the oil of choice for consumers, was not in sufficient supply to meet France’s demand, and the oil they did have access to was costly. The time had come to stop impoverishing themselves in order to purchase cooking oil, and to stop paying what he calls a tribute to foreign nations in the form of oil purchases. Boudin wanted to help France make use of an abundant natural resource to help replace this staple of the French diet.

The recent years’ beechnut harvest was apparently impressive, specifically in the Compiègne forest area, formerly the site of royal hunting parties. One key aspect of Boudin’s plan was to allow citizens to forage beechnuts on national forest land, such as that in Compiègne, a practice that had been illegal since an ordinance dating to 1669. However, even beechnuts on private property were either going to waste, or at best being used for pig fodder because of some bad press that beechnuts had been getting since the early 1700s. Boudin says that beechnut oil had a reputation of having an unpleasant taste in addition to reports claiming it caused various health problems. A lifelong consumer of beechnut oil, he heartily refuted those claims and even brought vials of beechnut oil for the members of the Convention nationale to sample.

This pamphlet contains detailed advice on how to harvest, store, and prepare the beechnuts for pressing, as well as a suggested price per bushel. Boudin highlights beechnuts’ advantages over olives, saying that beechnuts are less prone to spoilage while harvesting in humid weather and can be put up in dry storage for a long time prior to processing, like wheat. Boudin also makes some remarkable claims about beechnut oil’s shelf life, stating that it had a “delicate” flavor at five years, and was still edible at 10 or even 20 years and beyond. Luckily for the members of the Convention in attendance that day, the samples he brought ranged in vintage merely from one to three years.

I didn’t glean any indication of beechnut oil’s true shelf life after a brief glance at my trusty Harold McGee reference book On Food and Cooking, so I recommend caution if you are inspired to taste-test a ten-year-old bottle of this oil.

Revolutionary Expense Reports

On 21 nivose an III (10 January 1795), not long after the end of the Reign of Terror, the Convention nationale passed a law dictating that all the représentants en mission furnish a report of their activities, appropriations and expenditures while on mission to the Convention, and to have that report published.

There are around 150 of these expense reports in the collection (so far), and they range from the extensive (30 pages or more, with elaborate tables) to the relatively minimal.

The sheer number of these pamphlets, which were nearly all cataloged fairly early on in the project, made them fairly easy to catalog. Because the décret was passed with a time limit, virtually all of the reports were published in 1795. As they are all on the same topic, published by the same entity, and involved the same government bodies, assigning subject headings and other cataloging paraphernalia was exceedingly simple. The great number of fields that stayed the same between pamphlets enabled us to automate the vast majority of the cataloging process – all that remains to be done is giving the author, the title (nearly every expense report starts with the phrase Compte rendu, but the remaining portion of the title varies considerably between pamphlets), entering the page count and any other physical details, and recording the call number.

Case FRC 11727

As simple as most of the expense reports are, from time to time there comes an oddity – a report filed in the early months of 1796, a pamphlet that includes a narrative of the time spent, or a catalog of “patriotic gifts” received by the representative… or, as in the case of Case FRC 11727, something altogether unexpected, an ephemeral quirk of mandatory publishing.

Case FRC 11727 is only one page long. It has a 37 word title, which takes up most of that page.  The text is only one sentence long: it states that Pierre-Anselme Garrau neither received nor spent any government funds.

Case FRC 11727 detail

In a way, this seemingly superfluous document represents one of the greatest triumphs of the French Revolution – a strong federal government where laws were applied equally to all. Other common themes of the collection reflect the conscious efforts to this end – standardizing the gabelle salt tax, abolishing the lettres de cachet, inherited privileges, and implementing allodial land tenure. Case FRC 11727 shows that these reforms proceeded throughout all levels of government, and resulted in the extra government spending frequently associated with increased bureaucracy.