Parution – “Between state and market: printing and bookselling in eighteenth-century France”

Thierry Rigogne – Between state and market: printing and bookselling in eighteenth-century France

How did print spread through France and became a major force during the eighteenth century? This question has remained unanswered because we know surprisingly little about the infrastructure of the book trade. Between state and market: printing and bookselling in eighteenth-century France explores the networks of printers and booksellers that covered eighteenth-century France, situating these key cultural intermediaries within their political and socio-economic environments.

To draw an overview of printing and bookselling, and to chart their evolution across the century, the author analyzes a series of administrative surveys conducted between 1700 and 1777 by the Direction de la librairie. The hundreds of reports the central administration gathered on every printing shop and bookseller in the kingdom reveal not only where book professionals could be found and who they were, but what materials they were printing and what books they were selling.

Survey responses also show that book policing was deficient in most of the provinces, allowing pirated and forbidden books to pour into the kingdom from nearby foreign presses. Unable to control the circulation of books, the administration resorted to a strict Colbertist policy to reduce the number of printing shops. State intervention brought a decline in provincial book publishing, but printers could still thrive on job printing, local-interest publications and pirating. By contrast, the central administration let booksellers of all kinds proliferate. The second half of the century saw bookstores open everywhere. Better suited than traditional printer-booksellers to supply whatever books readers wanted, retail booksellers cashed in on a booming market demand.

Examining the book trade from each provincial city upwards, the author tracks the intricate web of relations between state, market, local institutions and book professionals that shaped the diffusion of print, and thereby the development of French literature and the experience of everyday readers.

Thierry Rigogne is Assistant Professor of History at Fordham University, NY. His academic interests lie in the social history of culture, commerce and consumption in eighteenth-century France. His future research encompasses a study of the French café from its birth in the late seventeenth-century to the French Revolution.

ISBN 978-0-7294-0907-0, xvii+314 pp., 23 ill. £65/ €100 hors taxe / $125

Publié dans les SVEC (Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century) de la Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford

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