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French Political Pamphlets, 1547-1648

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Introduction: French Political Pamphlets, 1547-1848

Introduction: French Political Pamphlets, 1547-1848


The period from 1547 to 1648 was one of the most excitingand eventful hundred years in French history. It opened against the backgroundof the long and bloody French religious wars of the sixteenth century and endedwith the commencement of the four-and-a-half year civil wars of the Fronde. Inbetween 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 informand editorialize about them. Since France had no newspapers, pamphlets providedthis service.


Pamphlets had always formed some part of the output of theFrench book trade. They remained one of the easiest, quickest, and leastexpensive ways an author-printer had to put his views before the public. Inspite of their continuous popularity, too little is known about the pamphlet asa printing entity in itself.


Few pamphlets would ever be considered examples of theartistic craftsmanship of the printing guild; most were printed with worn orbroken letters and poor-quality ink. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuriesthey were usually octavo in format, between sixteen and seventeen centimetersin size; they varied from a few pages to just under a hundred in length (themajority under fifty), and were without illustrations or other embellishmentsso characteristic of fine French printing associated with the Estienne andAnisson printing families. In the majority of cases there is little evidenceavailable to indicate the size of the editions, but the popularity of certainpamphlets 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 laterrepublished in Lyon, Toulouse, and Rouen with little change other than theimprint. The statement iouxte la copie imprime found on so many of thetitle pages is evidence of the wide and often rapid diffusion of the text ofthese pamphlets throughout France, and, indeed, often into other countries. Inspite of the attempts by the guild, and later by the crown, to control the sizeof the printing trade and the quantity and quality of books issued, littlecould be done to restrict the publication of pamphlets. A printer with a singlepress could issue copies of a scurrilous or seditious pamphlet, quicklydisassemble and hide his press, move on to another part of the city or to a newregion, and begin the process again. The custom many printers followed ofselling their works through colporteurs, or book peddlers, who wanderedthroughout the land with their merchandise, greatly facilitated the widestpossible dissemination of pamphlet literature.1


The authors of the pamphlets encompassed all social,political, religious, and economic positions within French society. The kingsof France, besides issuing royal proclamations, wrote many personal letters totheir public servants, friends, and even enemies; these sometimes appeared inpamphlet form. Queens, especially the mother regent Marie de Mdicis, and mostmembers of the French royalty wrote pamphlets on various topics. As might beexpected, the leaders of the Roman Catholic religious-political faction werewell represented in pamphlets by the Guises and the Mayennes, as were theHuguenots by Gaspard de Coligny and Philippe de Mornay. Ministers (Sully,Richelieu), literary figures (Pierre de Ronsard), statesmen (Michel deLHospital, 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 whichappeared under the pseudonyms of Matre Guillaume, Jacques Bonhomme, and Caton,as well as the large number of anonymous pamphlets printed during the periods1604-1607 and 1614-1615.


While these masses of pamphlets have come to be designatedpolitical, it is readily apparent from many of the titles in this work thatmuch more than mere politics was discussed. Any event, whether political ornot, that generated public interest or emotion would be certain to produce ascore of pamphlets from the pens of the ever-alert pamphleteers. As publicopinion became increasingly more important within French society, the pamphletbecame an ever more popular means of expressing that opinion. The frequency of dclarations,remonstrances, advis, and advertisements illustrate this point.


The religious wars dominated most of the sixteenth centuryin France, and the pamphlets in many instances reflected the intensity andemotionalism of those turbulent years. Although many of the tracts areirresponsible and literarily execrable, some contain much more than the usualCatholic-Huguenot polemics. Here can be found some of the first major attemptsby writers to articulate a political theory of the rights and privileges of themonarch and his subjects by taking into account the permanent existence of tworeligions with hostile and irreconcilable positions. The year 1589, whichsignaled the end of the Valois dynasty with the death of Henry III and thecommencement of the Bourbon line in Henry IV, produced an unusual number ofpamphlets. Perhaps at no time during this hundred-year period did the Frenchpeople express their public feelings more poignantly or excessively than in1610 over the assassination of Henry IV. The constitutional and politicalimplications of the last meeting of the Estates-General in 1614-1615 producedby far the greatest number of pamphlets, the majority of them writtenanonymously or under a pseudonym.


The largest single category of pamphlets can be classifiedas government publications. These include the arrts, dits, dclarations, andletters patentes issued in the name of the king, under the auspicies of thecouncils or chambers (conseil dtat, conseil priv, cour des monnaies, courdes aides, chamber de compte, chamber de justice), or by the Parlement ofParis or one of the fourteen provincial courts.2 Their contentsreveal valuable information about French society, and are characterized bydiscussions of social reform, educational reorganization, price regulation,administrative changes, religious concessions and suppressions, monetaryregulations, commercial monopolies, and diplomatic agreements.


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


It is unfortunate that few studies have dealt with theimportance of pamphlet literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries;3it is even more regrettable that, with one limited exception,4 nobibliographies are devoted exclusively to these materials. Because of theirfugitive and ephemeral nature, scholars have found it difficult to findlistings of these materials in national bibliographies, and other generalcompendiums and then to determine where these pamphlets could be found. It isthe purpose of this work to provide a bibliography and union list of the majorFrench political pamphlet collections within the United States.


The first step in this study was to define a politicalpamphlet by size and content and then to discover which libraries had collectionsof these materials. Generally, we considered as a pamphlet any publication ofone hundred pages or less, printed in France in French or Latin, and of someimmediate or contemporary interest. In certain instances, Italian or Englishpamphlets were included because of their direct relationship to a controversialevent or question discussed in other pamphlets. Excluded were works of pureliterature, if that arbitrary distinction can ever be made.


A preliminary questionnaire was sent to all universitylibraries and to certain other research institutions to determine the extent oftheir French pamphlet collections. Many major libraries (and some minor ones aswell) reported collections that varied in size from fifty or less to nearlythree thousand. Since it seemed unlikely that the very small collections wouldcontribute many unique titles, this work has been limited to a list of theholdings of libraries whose collections of French political pamphlets numberedmore than two hundred. Small collections, such as those at Duke University andthe Library of Congress, were included only when they came within the routescheduled for travel to major collections, or when librarians agreed to furnishsufficient bibliographical information by mail. The holdings of the followinglibraries are included in this catalog: Columbia University, Duke University,Folger Shakespeare Library, Harvard University, Library of Congress, MichiganState University, Newberry Library, New York Public Library, PrincetonUniversity, 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 contentsrecorded. A concerted effort was made to record not only those pamphletsincluded within segregated collections, but also those held in other parts ofthe library or campus. In a few instances, when it proved impossible because ofrestrictive library regulations to examine the pamphlets themselves, thebibliographical description was copied from library catalog cards.


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

Author: The authors full name (whether included on the title page orestablished from internal evidence or previously by other bibliographers),title, and dates are included in the form established by the Library ofCongress. Government publications and other pamphlets requiring corporateentries are also entered according to Library of Congress cataloging rules,with the important exception that no attempt has been made to separate dits,arrts, dclarations, letters patentes, or ordannances into thearbitrary classification of Sovereigns or Laws, statutes, etc., since noreal difference exists among them. All pronouncements by the sovereign duringhis reign are entered under the heading of Sovereigns. Anonymous pamphletsare entered under the first filing word of their title; pseudonymous pamphletsare entered under the pseudonym of the author, or under the authors real namewhen it is known.


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


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


Collation: The collation of each pamphlet is given bypagination, 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 libraryabbreviation.


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


Library abbreviation: The library locationabbreviation is given for each entry to indicate in which libraries thepamphlet can be found. Since the number of libraries involved is relativelysmall, abbreviations that would be easily recognizable were chosen, rather thanthe standard abbreviations for libraries adopted by the Union List ofSerials. Abbreviations for all libraries owning exactly the same pamphletare listed alphabetically. Abbreviations for libraries owning copies which varyonly in collation are separated by semicolons, with the variant collation givenin parentheses after the abbreviation. For example: New, UMich, Wis; Fol (10 p.),SyU (10 p.); Yale (15 p.) indicates that the Newberry Library, the Universityof Michigan Library, and the University of Wisconsin Library own the pamphletdescribed in the entry; the Folger Library and Syracuse University Library ownthe same pamphlet, but the collation is 10 pages rather than that described inthe entry; and Yale University Library owns the same pamphlet, but with avariant collation of 15 pages. However, pamphlets that differ in any way otherthan collation are given separate, numbered entries.


This work would have never been produced without thecooperation and assistance of many individuals and institutions. We areindebted to Felix Pollak, Rare Book Librarian, University of Wisconsin; HarrietC. Jameson, Head, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Universityof Michigan; Richard C. Chapin, Librarian, Michigan State University; J. TerryBender, Rare Book Librarian, Syracuse University; Marjorie G. Wynne, AssistantDirector, Bieneke Library, Yale University; William Bond (Houghton Library),Edith Henderson (Treasure Room, Law Library), Dorothea D. Reeves (KressLibrary), Harvard University; Lewis W. Stark, Chief Rare Book Librarian, NewYork 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 libertiesand privileges in order to examine and record their collections of pamphlets.Lawrence Towner, Director, Newberry Library, kindly permitted us to include inthis work Newberrys holdings from Doris Welshs two published checklists ofthe librarys French political pamphlets, and supplied us with a list of recentNewberry acquisitions of pamphlets. Louis Kaplan, Director of Libraries,University of Wisconsin, was a constant source of encouragement andunderstanding, and without his support this work would never have beencompleted. This project was supported in part by grants from the AmericanCollege and Research Libraries, American Philosophical Society, Graduate Schoolof the University of Wisconsin, and Folger Shakespeare Library. For these weare grateful.


Robert O. Lindsay
John Neu




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


Many of these official pamphlets have been reprintedin various collections. The following selected works represent listings of themost useful materials for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: (1) Conseildtat. Inventaire des arrts du Conseil dtat (rgne de Henri IV), ed.Nol Valois, 2 vols. (Paris: 1886-1893); (2) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Collectioncomplte, par ordre chronologique, des lois, dits, traits de paix,ordonnances, dclarations et rglemens dintrt gnral antrieurs 1789 ,ed. M. Walker, 5 vols. (Paris: A.Moessard et Jousset, 1835-1837); (3) France.Laws, statutes, etc. Collection des dits, arrests, ordannances,dclarations, etc. de juin 1578 Mai 1793 et concernant toutes les questionsjuridiques, charges, etc. donne du Conseil du Roy, Cour des Aides, Parlementde Paris , 26 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1671-1793); (4) France.Laws, statutes, etc. Les Collections de la lgislation antrieure 1789 etleurs lacunes pour les actes des XVI, XVIIe, XVIIIesicles, ed. Leon Aucoc (Paris: A. Picard, 1883); (5) France. Laws,statutes, etc. Recueil ddits et dordonnances royaux, sur le fait de lajustice, et autres matires les plus importantes , ed. E.J. de Laurire, 2vols. (Paris: Montalant, 1720); (6) France. Laws, statutes, etc. Recueilgnral des anciennes lois franaises, depuis lan 420 jusqu la rvolution de1789 , ed. Franois A. Isambert et al., 29 vols. (Paris: Belin-le-Prieur,1821-1833).


3 One of the best discussions of pamphlet literature canbe found in Henry Hausers Les Sources de lhistoire de France: XVIesicle (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 FrenchPolitical Pamphlets, 1560-1644, in the Newberry Library, comp. Doris V.Welsh (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1950); and Newberry Library, Chicago. ASecond Checklist of French Political Pamphlets, 1560-1653, in the NewberryLibrary, comp. Doris V. Welsh (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1955).





The following bibliography includes only those works used inverifying entries, dates, and other bibliographical information, and is notintended as a survey of the literature on French pamphlets.


Barbier, Antoine. A. Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes Troisime d., 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. Fchoz, 1889.


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


Bourgeois, Emile and Louis Andr. Les Sources de lhistoirede France: xviie sicle (1610-1715). 8 vols. Paris: APicard, 1913-1935.


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


Desgraves, Louis. Les Haultin, 1571-1623.LImprimerie La Rochelle. 2. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


Droz. Eugnie. Barthlemy Berton, 1563-1573.LImprimerie La Rochelle, 1. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


______. La Veuve Berton et Jean Portau, 1573-1589.LImprimerie La Rochelle, 3. Geneva: Droz, 1960.


Hauser, Henri. Les Sources de lhistoire de France: xviesicle (1494-1610). 4 vols. Paris: A. Picard, 1906-1915.


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


Newberry Library, Chicago. A Checklist of FrenchPolitical Pamphlets, 1560-1664, in the Newberry Library. Compiled by DorisV. 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. Bibliothque nationale. Dept. des imprims. Cataloguede lhistoire de France. 12 vols. Paris: Didot, 1855-1895.


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


U.S. Library of Congress. A Catalog of Books Representedby 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 beenused. Because of the small number of libraries included in this work, we havedecided 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