Biographical and bibliographical information on the book trades
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29 October 2015

Repertoires des gens du livre, Europe

Dictionnaires et répertoires des gens du livre en Europe et dans le monde :
expériences et perspectives

Journée d’études internationale, 23 octobre 2015
Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal (1 rue de Sully, Paris 4e)

The study day was attended by an international audience of about forty specialists and interested spectators. It was initiated as an information-gathering event by the project DEF19 which aims to produce a directory of all French publishing houses for the 19th century. This project is described at the start of the afternoon session.

Matin: Regards croisés sur quelques entreprises éditoriales. Bilans et expériences

The morning session covered a series of biographical dictionaries or databases of the book trade recently completed or near completion.

Pascal Fouché: le Dictionnaire encyclopédique du livre.

This major encyclopaedia appeared in three volumes in 2002, 2005 and 2011. It includes technical terms, historical themes and also some 240 individuals from all countries (only 60 from outside France), so it is highly selective, but for the period after 1830 it should ensure that all major publishers are included in DEF19. Some entries deal only with founders of an enterprise, others with the whole history of a firm. It was noted that there was often difficulty in establishing dates of birth and death, even for these major characters.

Sabine Juratic: le Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre à Paris, 1701-1789.

This project formed part of the project Prosopographie des gens du livre en France 1701-1789 launched in 1992 by Frederic Barbier at the Institut d'Histoire moderne et contemporaine. Frederic Barbier himself published Lumieres du Nord in 2002 and a database accessible on-line was developed for Lyon by Dominique Varry and for the Dijon-Bourgogne area much work was undertaken by a researcher now deceased. The same applies for Basse-Normandie, but more of this later. The Paris section is based primarily on two theses presented in the École des Chartes in the 1970s. It was stressed that for the pre-Revolutionary period it did not include publishers, but printers and booksellers, and also typefounders, colporteurs and surreptitious printers who sought to evade the "police du livre". It did not include binders, authors, engravers, printsellers, music sellers or journeymen. The size of each entry varied enormously depending on the sources available, and great care was taken in providing references, both to manuscripts and printed sources. The presenter noted that detailed listings such as those in the prosopographie could shed light on a wide range of historical, social and economic questions, including networks of distribution. Only volume one, covering the letters A-C with 502 notices, had appeared in 2007 and pressures of work and finance had prevented the completion of the project which should contain some 8,000 references. This led to some discussion on the mode of publication of such projects – printed or on-line.

Jean-Dominique Mellot et Nathalie Aguirre (Bibliothèque nationale de France): l’entreprise du Répertoire d’imprimeurs/libraires (vers 1470-vers 1830) de la BnF : étapes et connexions.

The project was started by the BnF in the 1980s with the introduction of computers and the digitisation of the general catalogue. Until then there was little information on printers and booksellers except for an index of printers in the published catalogue of anonymous works – and certainly no authority file. A useful starting point was the indexes of printers in the various short-title catalogues of the British Library. A card catalogue taken from the forms of names in imprints in the BnF produced many variant forms of name and recourse was made to a range of sources to establish standard forms of names, dates and places of activity, biographical dates and other information such as partners and successors. References were also given. It was decided to publish it and a guide to procedure was published in 1987. Entries were marked up for a database and the first edition was published in 1988 with about 1,000 entries. Later editions appeared in 1991 (2nd edition, 2500? entries), 1997 (3rd edition, 4,000 entries) and 2004 (4th edition, 5,200 entries). A fifth edition is overdue, but other projects, workload and finance have delayed its appearance. However information is available on-line through the publisher search facility in the BnF on-line catalogue and also through SUDOC, CERL and VIAF.

Ian Maxted: le Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre en Basse-Normandie, 1701-1789 (en cours d’achèvement) ; le répertoire des métiers du livre du comté de Devon ; le London Book Trade 1775-1800.

The presenter departed from his brief, entitling his presentation: "Exeter Working papers in Book History: un répertoire international accessible à tous". He started by outlining the history and development of the British Book Trade Index and Scottish Book Trade Index from their origins in the 1980s to illustrate the problems of maintaining a digital resource of this nature long-term. He then gave a chronological outline of the various stages of development of his own researches since the 1960s from card file to the present website . The London book trades 1775-1800 which appeared in 1977 was a traditional book although set by computer, the Devon book trades was a series of word processed files photocopied as a self-published working paper and the Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre en Basse-Normandie, 1701-1789 takes up the work of the late Alain Girard and is at present in a series of Word files using the format adopted by the Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre à Paris, 1701-1789 as part of the Prosopographie des gens du livre. Hard copy publication is envisaged by the project. He concluded by outlining the simple HTML format developed to integrate the many thousand biographical entries covering several countries in a single topographical sequence. The full text of the presentation is given elsewhere.

Josée Vincent (Université de Sherbrooke): le Dictionnaire historique des métiers du livre au Québec et au Canada français.

This was presented as work in progress. The project was launched in 2006 as part of the History of the book in Canada. Sources were patchy. For example the legal deposit register only starts in 1967 and there will be much reliance on sources such as journals and directories. The dictionary will be provided with an introduction, chronology and general bibliography. The format for entries was based on that of the Prosopograhie des gens du livre. The emphasis would be on individuals rather than firms or institutions. In all some 9,500 entries were envisaged and a database was under development for the online version although this was causing some problems.

Morning discussions centred on the definition of "editeur" and when the profession developed, and on what criteria for inclusion projects should adopt. Some were for limiting inclusion to "éditeurs", booksellers and printers, others for adopting a wider brief, covering the map, print and music trades, typefounder and even ink makers. Software sustainability and data preservation was also discussed and there was some interest in the Exeter Working Papers method of holding data in a platform-free accessible format.

Après-midi: Recenser les gens du livre : outils, projets, besoins.

The afternoon was dedicated to countries or periods where no work was yet under way.

Table ronde 1. Espaces francophones

Jean-Charles Geslot, Viera Rebolledo-Dhuin (Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines): le projet DEF19.

The project which originated this study day, the Dictionnaire des éditeurs français du 19e siècle, set out to fill a gap in the coverage of existing repertoires of the book trades in France. Its basis was two doctoral theses presented in 2011 and 2013. It was based in the Centre d'histoire culturelle des sociétés contemporaines in the Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines associated with the BnF, the Archives nationales and the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, département Infocom. It had obtained four years funding from the Agence nationale de la recherche and would support the post of a doctoral student and several other study days as well as the production of a printed register covering the period 1810-1870 and an on-line database for the period 1789-1914. Details of the research programme can be found on the project's website. The brevets, or licences issued to printers, booksellers and lithographers would form the basis of the printed volume including the Libredit database, also for the period to 1830 the authority files of the BnF, as well as bankruptcy records. There were plans for a database which could provide visualisations, tabulations and maps in the manner of HumaNum. Several possibilities were mentioned, the front runner at the moment being Omeka, a free database under development at the Centre for History and New Media.

Kmar Bendana (Institut Supérieur du Mouvement National, Université de La Manouba): la Tunisie.

The presenter bemoaned the fact that there was little tradition of historiography in Tunisia and also no tradition of the history of the book. Printing had started in about 1800 with Hebrew texts. At that time there were three official languages: French, Arab and Turkish. French and Arab printing only arrived about 1860 by which time Turkish had lost its influence. Lithography was very important as it reflected the calligraphic tradition of Arab scribes. The manuscript remained important until well into the 20th century and copyists were often women. Printed Korans had to be imported from Saudi Arabia which held a monopoly of publication of the sacred text. Sources for a biographical dictionary were problematical. There were few colonial archives on press control. The local press was important and could well be a good source. A large proportion of imprints would be official publications. There may well be sources for booksellers. The arrival of the internet had tended to sideline research and the technology and expertise to underpin major historical projects was not available.

François Vallotton (Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Lausanne): la Suisse.

No national book trade dictionary was in existence or in progress in Switzerland,which was one of the only European nations not to have a national biographical dictionary. Some specialist dictionaries were mentioned and listings such as RIECH (Repertoires des imprimeurs et éditeurs suisses actifs avant 1800) and Lumières Lausanne. A useful starting point for the major figures in all language areas would be the Dictionnare historique de la Suisse, published in 13 volumes between 2002 and 2013 with an on-line version. It included 26,000 biographies which often concentrate on other aspects of an individual's life, such as political or administrative activities. For the period 1798-2000 he had traced 212 individuals in the book trades. This could be extended by use of the Biography Portal. This includes German, Austrian and Swiss individuals and gives details of profession.

Table ronde 2. Espaces non-francophones

Jean-François Botrel (Université de Rennes): l’Espagne.

Spain had few relevant archives for the 19th and 20th centuries and much had been lost. There was also the problem of the split between Madrid and Barcelona. The press would be an important source, also fiscal records and the imprints recorded in the on-line collective catalogue. For the recent period there had been some increase in articles and monographs on individual persons and places. There would be problems of definition on what to include and he stressed the importance of illustrators, arguing for a wider inclusivity.

Frédéric Barbier (CNRS/EPHE): l’aire germanique.

The presenter discussed the nature of prosopography, saying that it was more than brief notices, demanding thorough research and references as well as a database that could render the information useful for a variety of interests: the role of women, migration, education and training, communication networks, cultural diffusion. Germany would be difficult to define as it had changed over time and had a complex political structure loosely held together by the Holy Roman Empire. Compilers would need to know the political history and the development of trade and library collections. As to sources: general biographical dictionaries such as Allegemeine deutsche Biographie etc include many book trade people and there are specialist listings such as those of Christoph Reske: Die Buchdrucker des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts im deutschen Sprachgebiet : auf der Grundlage des gleichnamigen Werkes von Josef Benzing (Beiträge zum Buch- und Bibliothekswesen, Band 51), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007 and Deutsche Buchdrucker, Buchhandler und Verleger, 1701-1750 by David L Paisey, Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz, 1988. There were many monographs and articles on individuals and towns. Directories such as the Allgemeines Adressbuch für den Deutschen Buchhandel (1839-), some of which have been digitised, and library OPACs could also provide information and there were rich sources in archives if one could decipher the German script. One rich source not mentioned by the presenter was the Frankfurt and Leipzig fair catalogues.

Wallace Kirsop (Monash University, Melbourne): l’Australie et l’Océanie.

The paper ws read on his behalf as illness had prevented him from attending. Oceania had a wide linguistic variety both from colonial languages and indigenous ones and missionaries, arriving with presses from the 1830s played an important role. The press and official publications were important in the 19th century and sources in newspapers have been examined. Much information is available in anecdotal form in personal reminiscences or in nostalgic historical publications such as collections of early postcards. Indexes have been made of the Australian dictionary of biography and work is in progress in both Australia and New Zealand on histories of the book, so a biographical register could emerge as a by-product of those projects.

Marisa Midori (Université de Saõ Paulo): Les gens du livre au Brésil : outils, approches et perspectives de recherche.

The presenter gave an impressive outline of the spread of printing throughout Latin America (1530 Mexico, 1583 Lima etc) as well as Brazil (Rio de Janeiro 1808, Salvador 1811, Recife 1817 etc) with a range of statistics which demonstrate that much information is already available. There are monograph series devoted to various publishers and a range of sources had been tackled with varying success – a trawl of 1,000 probate inventories for 1850-1900 had produced scarcely any book trade personnel. One unusual source mentioned was a collection of booksellers' labels published by Ubirata Machado in 2003 including 650 labels for the period 1810-2000. The presenter noted that there was much French involvement in the development of the book trade in Brazil in the period 1850-1890 and it was stressed in discussions at the end of the study day that national biographical dictionaries must have an international perspective. From the earliest times printers travelled and booksellers traded across frontiers, and trade and colonialism helped to spread printing across the oceans.

Postscript: Jean-Baptiste Bodoni : imprimeur de l'Europe. Andrea de Pasquale, director Biblioteca nazionale centrale, Rome. Public defence of doctoral thesis, École des Chartes, rue Richelieu 22 October 2015.

The international vision encouraged by the study day was anticipated the day before in the defence before an international jury of the thesis on this important printer by the youngest ever national librarian of Italy. Before taking up his present post he was since 2007 director of the Ducal Library in Parma which he had rescued from a state of neglect, conserving, cataloguing and digitising the typographical collections of what was in the 19th century the earliest museum of printing in Europe. These included punches, matrices, moulds and other typographical tools as well as the cupboards used to store fonts, type specimens, many products of Bodoni's press and correspondence and other archives. The information gathered during this project was the main source for his doctoral thesis. Bodoni was involved in all aspects of the world of the book, as type designer, punch cutter, typefounder, printer, bookseller and publisher but he was not equally at home in all areas. Although he designed types for many oriental languages, records show that he and his compositors had no knowledge of the languages but set the types letter by letter, leaving blanks in the proofs for correctors, often clerics involved in the dissemination of Christian texts through the Congregazione de Propoaganda Fide in Rome, where Bodoni had started his career before moving to Parma. Chinese characters in his polyglot Oratio Dominica were the only ones to be cut in wood. Pasquale also traced the heritage of Bodoni. He worked for many publishers and courts across Europe, including some in England, and his publications found great favour with bibliophiles. After the unification of Italy he was rediscovered as a national hero and Bodoni became the typeface of fascism. It is still to be found widely used in publicity and as a text typeface.

The public defence of a thesis is an interesting ceremony for a British observer and a tense time for the defender. Although the result was not in doubt he was not given an entirely smooth ride. There were comments on the structure of the thesis which was split into too few excessively large subdivisions. There were also concerns about his treatment of the references, bibliography and listing of manuscript sources and queries on the level of emphasis on, for example, the role of bibliophily and contacts with the court of Vienna. All agreed though that Pasquale had produced a wonderfully detailed account of the achievements of Bodoni and the thesis was received "summa cum laude", so he could attend the study day as il dottore Pasquale.

This page last updated 29 October 2015.