Introduction: French Political Pamphlets, 1547-1848


The period from 1547 to 1648 was one of the most exciting and eventful hundred years in French history. It opened against the background of the long and bloody French religious wars of the sixteenth century and ended with the commencement of the four-and-a-half year civil wars of the Fronde. In between occurred international wars, the assassinations of two French kings, religious controversy, administrative and political innovations, tariff wars, much social change, and the usual amount of palace intrigue and court gossip. People were anxious to know about these events and writers were eager to inform and editorialize about them. Since France had no newspapers, pamphlets provided this service.


Pamphlets had always formed some part of the output of the French book trade. They remained one of the easiest, quickest, and least expensive ways an author-printer had to put his views before the public. In spite of their continuous popularity, too little is known about the pamphlet as a printing entity in itself.


Few pamphlets would ever be considered examples of the artistic craftsmanship of the printing guild; most were printed with worn or broken letters and poor-quality ink. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were usually octavo in format, between sixteen and seventeen centimeters in size; they varied from a few pages to just under a hundred in length (the majority under fifty), and were without illustrations or other embellishments so characteristic of fine French printing associated with the Estienne and Anisson printing families. In the majority of cases there is little evidence available to indicate the size of the editions, but the popularity of certain pamphlets is attested by the large number of reprints and new editions printed. It was not uncommon for a pamphlet to be printed first in Paris and later republished in Lyon, Toulouse, and Rouen with little change other than the imprint. The statement “iouxte la copie imprimée à …” found on so many of the title pages is evidence of the wide and often rapid diffusion of the text of these pamphlets throughout France, and, indeed, often into other countries. In spite of the attempts by the guild, and later by the crown, to control the size of the printing trade and the quantity and quality of books issued, little could be done to restrict the publication of pamphlets. A printer with a single press could issue copies of a scurrilous or seditious pamphlet, quickly disassemble and hide his press, move on to another part of the city or to a new region, and begin the process again. The custom many printers followed of selling their works through colporteurs, or book peddlers, who wandered throughout the land with their merchandise, greatly facilitated the widest possible dissemination of pamphlet literature.1


The authors of the pamphlets encompassed all social, political, religious, and economic positions within French society. The kings of France, besides issuing royal proclamations, wrote many personal letters to their public servants, friends, and even enemies; these sometimes appeared in pamphlet form. Queens, especially the mother regent Marie de Médicis, and most members of the French royalty wrote pamphlets on various topics. As might be expected, the leaders of the Roman Catholic religious-political faction were well represented in pamphlets by the Guises and the Mayennes, as were the Huguenots by Gaspard de Coligny and Philippe de Mornay. Ministers (Sully, Richelieu), literary figures (Pierre de Ronsard), statesmen (Michel de L’Hospital, Jean Bodin), lawyers (Godefroy, lawyer of La Rochelle), printers (Robert Estienne), and historians (Jacques Auguste de Thou, Pierre Matthieu) made their positions known. Among the most interesting pamphlets are those which appeared under the pseudonyms of Maître Guillaume, Jacques Bonhomme, and Caton, as well as the large number of anonymous pamphlets printed during the periods 1604-1607 and 1614-1615.


While these masses of pamphlets have come to be designated “political,” it is readily apparent from many of the titles in this work that much more than mere politics was discussed. Any event, whether political or not, that generated public interest or emotion would be certain to produce a score of pamphlets from the pens of the ever-alert pamphleteers. As public opinion became increasingly more important within French society, the pamphlet became an ever more popular means of expressing that opinion. The frequency of déclarations, remonstrances, advis, and advertisements illustrate this point.


The religious wars dominated most of the sixteenth century in France, and the pamphlets in many instances reflected the intensity and emotionalism of those turbulent years. Although many of the tracts are irresponsible and literarily execrable, some contain much more than the usual Catholic-Huguenot polemics. Here can be found some of the first major attempts by writers to articulate a political theory of the rights and privileges of the monarch and his subjects by taking into account the permanent existence of two religions with hostile and irreconcilable positions. The year 1589, which signaled the end of the Valois dynasty with the death of Henry III and the commencement of the Bourbon line in Henry IV, produced an unusual number of pamphlets. Perhaps at no time during this hundred-year period did the French people express their public feelings more poignantly or excessively than in 1610 over the assassination of Henry IV. The constitutional and political implications of the last meeting of the Estates-General in 1614-1615 produced by far the greatest number of pamphlets, the majority of them written anonymously or under a pseudonym.


The largest single category of pamphlets can be classified as government publications. These include the arrêts, édits, déclarations, and letters patentes issued in the name of the king, under the auspicies of the councils or chambers (conseil d’état, conseil privé, cour des monnaies, cour des aides, chamber de compte, chamber de justice), or by the Parlement of Paris or one of the fourteen provincial courts.2 Their contents reveal valuable information about French society, and are characterized by discussions of social reform, educational reorganization, price regulation, administrative changes, religious concessions and suppressions, monetary regulations, commercial monopolies, and diplomatic agreements.


Because of the very circumstances that were responsible for the conception and production of pamphlet literature, many were, of necessity, diatribes, distortions of the facts, and purposefully misleading. Regardless of the spurious and controversial nature of many pamphlets, they remain one of the principal forms of literature of the day and are one of the best primary sources for a study of the times.


It is unfortunate that few studies have dealt with the importance of pamphlet literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries;3 it is even more regrettable that, with one limited exception,4 no bibliographies are devoted exclusively to these materials. Because of their fugitive and ephemeral nature, scholars have found it difficult to find listings of these materials in national bibliographies, and other general compendiums and then to determine where these pamphlets could be found. It is the purpose of this work to provide a bibliography and union list of the major French political pamphlet collections within the United States.


The first step in this study was to define a political pamphlet by size and content and then to discover which libraries had collections of these materials. Generally, we considered as a pamphlet any publication of one hundred pages or less, printed in France in French or Latin, and of some immediate or contemporary interest. In certain instances, Italian or English pamphlets were included because of their direct relationship to a controversial event or question discussed in other pamphlets. Excluded were works of pure literature, if that arbitrary distinction can ever be made.


A preliminary questionnaire was sent to all university libraries and to certain other research institutions to determine the extent of their French pamphlet collections. Many major libraries (and some minor ones as well) reported collections that varied in size from fifty or less to nearly three thousand. Since it seemed unlikely that the very small collections would contribute many unique titles, this work has been limited to a list of the holdings of libraries whose collections of French political pamphlets numbered more than two hundred. Small collections, such as those at Duke University and the Library of Congress, were included only when they came within the route scheduled for travel to major collections, or when librarians agreed to furnish sufficient bibliographical information by mail. The holdings of the following libraries are included in this catalog: Columbia University, Duke University, Folger Shakespeare Library, Harvard University, Library of Congress, Michigan State University, Newberry Library, New York Public Library, Princeton University, State University of New York At Buffalo, Syracuse University, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Wisconsin, and Yale University.


Each pamphlet collection was examined and its contents recorded. A concerted effort was made to record not only those pamphlets included within segregated collections, but also those held in other parts of the library or campus. In a few instances, when it proved impossible because of restrictive library regulations to examine the pamphlets themselves, the bibliographical description was copied from library catalog cards.


The bibliographical information included in this catalog is a compromise between the extensive detail required for a true descriptive bibliography and the minimum author-title-date necessary for a list. The following information has been included:

Author: The author’s full name (whether included on the title page or established from internal evidence or previously by other bibliographers), title, and dates are included in the form established by the Library of Congress. Government publications and other pamphlets requiring corporate entries are also entered according to Library of Congress cataloging rules, with the important exception that no attempt has been made to separate édits, arrêts, déclarations, letters patentes, or ordannances into the arbitrary classification of “Sovereigns” or “Laws, statutes, etc.,” since no real difference exists among them. All pronouncements by the sovereign during his reign are entered under the heading of “Sovereigns.” Anonymous pamphlets are entered under the first filing word of their title; pseudonymous pamphlets are entered under the pseudonym of the author, or under the author’s real name when it is known.


Title: The complete title is given with original spelling and accent marks. Contractions and ligatures are spelled out. Occasionally, excessively long titles have been shortened. All omissions have been indicated by ellipses.


Imprint: The place of publication, printer or publisher, and date of publication are given. When no place of publication is given, the abbreviation [n.p.] is used. Inferred dates are in brackets.


Collation: The collation of each pamphlet is given by pagination, foliation, or, in the absence of either, by the number of leaves. Pamphlets which differ only in their collations are not given separate entries. Variants in collation are indicated in parentheses following the library abbreviation.


Notes: Occasional notes indicate if the pamphlet is in verse, if it has a caption title instead of a title page, or if it has been signed with initials which do not appear on the title page.


Library abbreviation: The library location abbreviation is given for each entry to indicate in which libraries the pamphlet can be found. Since the number of libraries involved is relatively small, abbreviations that would be easily recognizable were chosen, rather than the standard abbreviations for libraries adopted by the Union List of Serials. Abbreviations for all libraries owning exactly the same pamphlet are listed alphabetically. Abbreviations for libraries owning copies which vary only in collation are separated by semicolons, with the variant collation given in parentheses after the abbreviation. For example: “New, UMich, Wis; Fol (10 p.), SyU (10 p.); Yale (15 p.)” indicates that the Newberry Library, the University of Michigan Library, and the University of Wisconsin Library own the pamphlet described in the entry; the Folger Library and Syracuse University Library own the same pamphlet, but the collation is 10 pages rather than that described in the entry; and Yale University Library owns the same pamphlet, but with a variant collation of 15 pages. However, pamphlets that differ in any way other than collation are given separate, numbered entries.


This work would have never been produced without the cooperation and assistance of many individuals and institutions. We are indebted to Felix Pollak, Rare Book Librarian, University of Wisconsin; Harriet C. Jameson, Head, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Michigan; Richard C. Chapin, Librarian, Michigan State University; J. Terry Bender, Rare Book Librarian, Syracuse University; Marjorie G. Wynne, Assistant Director, Bieneke Library, Yale University; William Bond (Houghton Library), Edith Henderson (Treasure Room, Law Library), Dorothea D. Reeves (Kress Library), Harvard University; Lewis W. Stark, Chief Rare Book Librarian, New York Public Library; Kenneth A. Lohf, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections, Columbia University; Howard C. Rice, Rare Book Librarian, Princeton University; and Philip A. Knachel, Acting Director, and Louis B. Wright, former Director, Folger Shakespeare Library. All of these persons allowed us unusual liberties and privileges in order to examine and record their collections of pamphlets. Lawrence Towner, Director, Newberry Library, kindly permitted us to include in this work Newberry’s holdings from Doris Welsh’s two published checklists of the library’s French political pamphlets, and supplied us with a list of recent Newberry acquisitions of pamphlets. Louis Kaplan, Director of Libraries, University of Wisconsin, was a constant source of encouragement and understanding, and without his support this work would never have been completed. This project was supported in part by grants from the American College and Research Libraries, American Philosophical Society, Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin, and Folger Shakespeare Library. For these we are grateful.


Robert O. Lindsay
John Neu




David T. Pottinger, The French Book Trade in the Ancien Regime, 1500-1791 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), p. 72.


Many of these “official” pamphlets have been reprinted in various collections. The following selected works represent listings of the most useful materials for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: (1) Conseil d’État. Inventaire des arrêts du Conseil d’État (règne de Henri IV), ed. Noël Valois, 2 vols. (Paris: 1886-1893); (2) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Collection complète, par ordre chronologique, des lois, édits, traités de paix, ordonnances, déclarations et règlemens d’intérêt général antérieurs à 1789 …, ed. M. Walker, 5 vols. (Paris: A.Moessard et Jousset, 1835-1837); (3) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Collection des édits, arrests, ordannances, déclarations, etc. … de juin 1578 à Mai 1793 et concernant toutes les questions juridiques, charges, etc. … donnée du Conseil du Roy, Cour des Aides, Parlement de Paris …, 26 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1671-1793); (4) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Les Collections de la législation antérieure à 1789 et leurs lacunes pour les actes des XVI, XVIIe, XVIIIe siècles, ed. Leon Aucoc (Paris: A. Picard, 1883); (5) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Recueil d’édits et d’ordonnances royaux, sur le fait de la justice, et autres matières les plus importantes …, ed. E.J. de Laurière, 2 vols. (Paris: Montalant, 1720); (6) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, depuis l’an 420 jusqu’à la révolution de 1789 …, ed. François A. Isambert et al., 29 vols. (Paris: Belin-le-Prieur, 1821-1833).


3 One of the best discussions of pamphlet literature can be found in Henry Hauser’s Les Sources de l’histoire de France: XVIe siècle (1494-1610), vol. II, 14-15; vol. III, 18-23; vol. IV, 11-18 (Paris: A. Picard, 1909, 1912, 1915).


4 Newberry Library, Chicago. A Checklist of French Political Pamphlets, 1560-1644, in the Newberry Library, comp. Doris V. Welsh (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1950); and Newberry Library, Chicago. A Second Checklist of French Political Pamphlets, 1560-1653, in the Newberry Library, comp. Doris V. Welsh (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1955).





The following bibliography includes only those works used in verifying entries, dates, and other bibliographical information, and is not intended as a survey of the literature on French pamphlets.


Barbier, Antoine. A. Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes … Troisième éd., rev. et aug. par MM. O. Barbier R. and P. Billard. 4 vols. Paris: P. Daffis, 1872-1879.


______. ______. Supplement … par G. Brunet. Paris: F.J. Féchoz, 1889.


Baudrier, Henri Louis, Bibliographie lyonnaise. 12 vols. Lyon: A. Bruin; Paris; A. Picard, 1895-1921.


Bourgeois, Emile and Louis André. Les Sources de l’histoire de France: xviie siècle (1610-1715). 8 vols. Paris: A Picard, 1913-1935.


British Museum. Dept. of Printed Books. General Catalogue of Printed Books. Photolithographic ed. to 1955. 263 vols. London: British Museum, 1965-1966.


Desgraves, Louis. Les Haultin, 1571-1623. L’Imprimerie à La Rochelle. 2. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


Droz. Eugénie. Barthélemy Berton, 1563-1573. L’Imprimerie à La Rochelle, 1. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


______. La Veuve Berton et Jean Portau, 1573-1589. L’Imprimerie à La Rochelle, 3. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


Hauser, Henri. Les Sources de l’histoire de France: xvie siècle (1494-1610). 4 vols. Paris: A. Picard, 1906-1915.


Le Long, Jacques. Bibliothèque historique de la France …. Nouv. éd. rev. par F. de Fontette … 5 vols. Paris: Herrissant, 1768-1778.


Newberry Library, Chicago. A Checklist of French Political Pamphlets, 1560-1664, in the Newberry Library. Compiled by Doris V. Welsh. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1950.


______.A Second Checklist of French Political Pamphlets, 1560-1653, in the Newberry Library. Compiled by Doris V. Welsh. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1955.


Paris. Bibliothéque nationale. Dept. des imprimés. Catalogue de l’histoire de France. 12 vols. Paris: Didot, 1855-1895.


______. Catalogue général des livres imprimés: Auteurs. 197 vols. to date. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1897-.


U.S. Library of Congress. A Catalog of Books Represented by Library of Congress Printed Cards. 167 vols. Ann Arbor: Edwards Bros., 1942-1946.


______. ______. Supplement. 42 vols. Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, 1948.


______. Author Catalog. 23 vols. Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, 1953.



Library Abbreviations


The standard union list symbols for libraries have not been used. Because of the small number of libraries included in this work, we have decided to use more readily recognizable abbreviations.


Buf – State University of New York at Buffalo
Col – Columbia University
Duke – Duke University
Fol – Folger Shakespeare Library
Har – Harvard University
LC – Library of Congress
MichS – Michigan State University
New – Newberry Library
NYPL – New York Public Library
Prin – Princeton University
SyU – Syracuse University
UMich – University of Michigan
UNC – University of North Carolina
Wis – University of Wisconsin
Yale – Yale University