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17 March 2016

Sir Walter Scott and the Parisian pirates

Sir Walter Scott and the Parisian pirates: a bibliographical paddle in murky waters

Among the treasured possessions of a friend who lives between Exeter and Tiverton is an edition of Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott, which was published in Paris in 1821, the same year as the first London edition. He was intrigued by this and the following notes result from my investigation into the background of this unusual item.

First a description of the two volumes, which are bound in quarter leather in duodecimo format.

Kenilworth; a romance. By the author of « Waverley, » «I vanhoe [sic], etc. In two volumes. Vol. 1. – Paris : Amyot, bookseller, no. 6, rue de la Paix ; Baudry, bookseller in foreign languages, no. 9 rue du Coq. S.-Honoré, 1821.

Printed by Rignoux, no. 8, rue des Francs-Bourgeois S. Michel. Contents: Chapters I-XVIII. Chapter X "first part of the second volume of the London edition".

--- Vol. 2. - Baudry, bookseller in foreign languages, no. 9 rue du Coq. S.-Honoré ; Amyot, bookseller, no. 6, rue de la Paix ; Pinard, no. 5, quai Voltaire, 1821. Printed by Rignoux, no. 8, rue des Francs-Bourgeois S. Michel. Contents: chapters XIX-XLI. No note on first part of volume 3 of London edition.

In addition there is a label in the first volume:

Baudry, libraire, rue du Coq. St.-Honoré no. 4 [altered to 9 in manuscript], à Paris. Tient les livres anglais, italiens, allemands, espagnols, pertugais, langues du nord, etc. Vente, achat et échanges.

Armed with this, I set out to discover a little more about the circumstances of its publication. One of the publishers soon emerged from obscurity: Louis-Claude Baudry was born around 1793, probably in Pont-l'Évêque (Calvados). He set up as a bookseller in 1815, although he only received his certificate (brevet) on 20 June 1820, six months before the publication of Kenilworth. He exploited the opportunities for foreign contact opened up by the cessation of hostilities in 1815 and specialised in works in foreign languages, both works of literature and language text-books. He established the "Librairie des langues étrangères" and later the "Librairie européenne" or "Baudry's European Library" which included a reading room. He continued until his death in January 1853 when he was succeeded by his widow Pulchérie-Virginie Debilly, who received her certificate on 12 December 1853 et continued the business until her death in 1860. From the beginning Baudry devoted himself to the piracy of foreign editions. By 1829 his collection "Ancient and Modern British Authors" included thirty-two titles. His main rival in Paris was Galignani with whom he cooperated on occasions. He aimed at high quality in his productions with good annotations, biographical notes and even portraits of the English authors, for example in his edition of Byron's Prisoner of Chillon. Between 1831 and 1851 he produced some 450 volumes of English literature, at prices five or six times cheaper than in London.

His associate for this English edition of Kenilworth, Pierre Fleurus Amyot, was also a newcomer, having received his brevet on 20 June 1820, the same day as Baudry. He worked as a bookseller and publisher until 11 March 1875 when he was succeeded by his son. He was authorised to have a copying press (presse à copier) on 7 April 1852 but this was withdrawn on 13 July 1852, so during his long career he did not print on his own account. Pinard, who is mentioned only on the title-page of the second volume, is another newcomer to the Parisian scene. Jean-Baptiste Pinard was born in Bordeaux in the 1750s, the son of a printer and bookseller of the same name with whom he worked from 1779 to the beginning of the 19th century as Pinard père et fils. He then took over the business and also represented the Parisian printers Firmin-Didot in Bordeaux where, after the Restoration of the monarchy, he was authorised to print a weekly newsletter for commercial announcements in English. He seems to have come to Paris in about 1818, perhaps in association with Ambroise Firmin-Didot who praises him in his Essai sur la typographie in 1851. He is recorded in Paris as a bookseller in 1820 and obtained his brevet as a letterpress printer with the support of Firmin-Didot only on 9 April 1823, and confirmation as a bookseller on 16 September 1828. On is death he was succeeded by his daughter Catherine-Anaïs Pinard on 29 December 1831.

The printer of the volumes, Thomas-François Rignoux, born on 22 June 1781 was trained in the printing office of Firmin Didot and received his brevet on 14 March 1820. He also traded as Rignoux et compagnie. On 8 September 1832 he was authorised to set up his presses in the administrative offices of the Pompes Funèbres. In the 1850s he was also printer for the Faculty of Medicine, printing medical theses, a large proportion of which seem to deal with pus. He was succeeded by Anatole-Ange Parent in June 1863.

My friend's volumes were part of the tidal wave of enthusiasm for the works of Sir Walter Scott and other English writers that swept across Europe at that time. In Paris there had been few publications of Scot before the defeat of Napoleon. In the years 1816 to 1819 only two or three editions of his works appeared each year, almost entirely in translation. In 1820 the number of editions rose to about fifteen, again largely translations, but in 1821 this figure more than doubled and now editions in English figured large. Among early publishers was Henri-Gabriel Nicolle (1767-1829), established as a journalist and bookseller in Paris since the 1790s, who initiated a complete collection of Scott's works in French translation, in collaboration with Pierre-François Ladvocat (1791-1854) who received his brevet only in 1821.

Scott was only too aware of the importance of confidentiality to protect the impact of his writings. After he had started work on Kenilworth he wrote to his publisher Archibald Constable from his home at Abbotsford on 10 September 1820: "Please not to say a word about Kenilworth. The very name explains so much, that some knowing fellow may anticipate the subject." The novel was completed by 27 December and printing was finished by 5 January 1821. The novel was published on 15 January in Edinburgh and 18 January in London with the imprint: Edinburgh : Printed for Archibald Constable and Co.; and John Ballantyne; and Hurst, Robinson, and Co., London. As Kenilworth was published so early in 1821, so there was time for a number of editions to appear during the course of the year. Apart from a second edition by the same publishers, other British publishers' names are mentioned in library catalogues, which may be reissues of these sheets. Names found include Thomas Nelson in Edinburgh, J. Smith in Glasgow (as Kennilworth) and George Vertue in London. A version "epitomised by Sarah S. Wilkinson" was published in London by Dean and Munday and Kenilworth: a drama in two acts, from Sir Walter Scott, also in London, by T. H. Lacy. In Paris editions of the English text include that of Baudry, Amyot and Pinard in two volumes and of A. and W. Galignani and Pierre Didot in three volumes. There were three editions of French translations, one by Galignani and Didot, one translated by J. T. Parisot and published by Corréard, another translated by Mme Fanny Angel Collet and published by Lerouge in four small-format duodecimo volumes and one which formed part of the complete works of Scott that Henri Nicolle was producing with the translations of Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret. This did not complete the tally of editions of Kenilworth for 1821. A German translation by Georg Lotz was published in Hannover by the Hahn 'sche Hofbuchhandlung, and an Italian version "volgarizzato dal professore Gaetano Barbieri" appeared in Milan, published by Vicenzo Ferrario. And there were other pirated English editions, in Berlin by Duncker & Humblot and in Philadelphia by M. Carey & Son. In fact American piracies in the 19th century were as big a bone of contention as those in Paris.

Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret (1767-1843) was a prolific translator of English writers, especially Scott, and in 1822 he negotiated an agreement with Scott's London agents Black, Young and Young to receive proof sheets of his novels direct from the press, so that his translation appeared almost simultaneously with the original and ahead of the English versions published by Galignani in the 1820s. Scott did not approve of the indecent haste with which unauthorised translations were appearing.

An anonymous letter appeared in the preface to volume 32 of the fourth edition of Defauconpret's translations in 1830 stating that while the Scottish novels appeared in London without the author's name, Defauconpret, who had managed to lift the veil that shrouded the mysterious novelist, was bold enough to publish them in Paris under the name of Sir Walter Scott. Seeing that the great poet did not deny it, he hoped to obtain a more definite statement and in April 1821, probably about the time he was working on his translation of Kenilworth, he sent to Edinburgh an example of his translations, requesting him to approve the dedication, but a few days later the post returned his French volumes and this reply:

To Mr A. J. B. Defauconpret, London
Sir, - I am favoured with your letter which proceeds upon the erroneous supposition that I am the author of Waverley and the other novels which you have translated into French. But as this proceeds upon a mistake, though a very general one. I have no title whatsoever either to become a party to any arrangement in which that author or his works may be concerned or to accept the very handsome compliment which you design for him. I am, Sir, your very obedient Servant Walter Scott.
Edinburgh, April 15, 1821

A facsimile of this letter appeared in Gosselin's edition of Scott's works, a reissue of Defauconpret's translation, dated 1826, and also in The Times of 15th July 1826 and it was reprinted in John Bull of 16 July 1826, with the suggestion that it was a forgery. Defauconpret responded in a letter printed in John Bull dated 23 July:

Sir, - I have seen today in your paper a copy of a letter I have received from Sir Walter Scott, some years ago. As I have always thought and still think, that the publication of a letter without the knowledge of its writer is a breach of confidence, I beg leave to declare that I am a perfect stranger to it. Mr. Gosselin, a Parisian bookseller, and the editor of my translations of the novels of the author of Waverley, in a visit to London, four or five years ago requested of me that letter only as an object of curiosity ; and as I did not attach any importance to it I gave it as a matter of course. I have been very much surprised, after such an interval of time, to hear that he had caused a facsimile of it to be made, and inserted in a new edition of the same novels. If that circumstance wound the feelings of any one, nobody can be more sorry for it than I am ; and I have written to Mr. Gosselin to express to him my displeasure at an act to which he has never been authorised by me.

Scott was certainly displeased. In a letter to his publisher Robert Cadell, docketed 16 April 1821 he writes:

Dear Sir, - I altogether disapprove of what is proposed by Mr. De Fauconnet. There is nothing I have found more useful than as far as possible keeping these things secret before publication & I cannot agree to put them into the hands of a French translator who may give you if he pleases an edition of the English works in Paris as soon as in Edinr [Edinburgh]. Of course I wrote to Mr. De Fauconnet that I had nothing to do in the matter & beg you to take your own measures in arranging with him. Yors truly W. S.
[…] Private and confidential.

The leading Parisian publisher of English translations was the firm of Galignani, frequently in association with Pierre Didot (1761-1853). Giovanni Antonio Galignani (1757-1821) was born in Palazzolo, near Brescia. He came to teach languages in Paris in 1793, then moved to London where on 20 January 1795 he published a prospectus for "The New Lyceum of arts, sciences, and languages, held at the Assembly Rooms, Hanover Square" for which subscriptions could be received by London bankers, booksellers and also the director "Mr. Galignani, ... Hanover Square", as well as at the Assembly Rooms. In London he married Anne Parsons (1776-1822) and set up a tea-room with a bookshop where Italian and English conversations were held. Both his sons were born in London, John Anthony (1796-1873) and William (1798-1882). He returned to Paris in 1799 and in 1801 he established a foreign language bookshop and reading room. In 1801 he also launched, together with his wife, the periodical Repertory of English literature, issued monthly until 1817 when it became weekly, followed in 1814 by Galignani's messenger. From 1805 to 1811 he published in partnership with his wife and father-in-law as Parsons, Galignani et compagnie and from 1811 also as Librairie française et étrangère. His sons John Anthony and William Galignani succeeded him on his death in 1821.

Apart from translations the two brothers also greatly increased their production of reprints of English writers in the original language. There is rare testimony from an English journeyman printer. Arriving in Paris in 1826 the young Charles Manby Smith found employment with Galignani. He describes his first day:

[…] finding the office open in the Rue du Pont de Lodi, I was soon at my post, eager to commence operations. None of the English compositors had yet arrived, but two or three French hands and a Spaniard were busily engaged on works in their own languages. The Spaniard spoke neither French nor English, but was an excellent workman, lifting his types with that silent and almost motionless celerity, which is the invariable characteristic of a good compositor. The Frenchmen, on the other hand, were wretchedly slow and awkward, never loading themselves with more than a line at a time, which they made a rare clatter in completing and getting rid of ere they commenced another. It had struck seven before a single Englishman had arrived, and was near eight ere the foreman, from whom I was to receive copy made his appearance. From him I received, as my first job, half-a-dozen leaves of Walter Scott's novel of "Woodstock," which had not yet been published in England. It was about the commencement of the third volume, and the copy put into my hands plainly was, as I could see by the reader's marks in the margin, the corrected second proofs, with, as I judged from the pen-and-ink alterations of an expression here and there, the author's corrections transferred. Of course, I cannot pretend to say that there was any bribery or breach of faith in the business; all I can state is, that ultimately the work was printed and published in Paris at the price of half-crown a volume, within a few days of its publication in London at half-a-guinea a volume.

How such sheets were actually obtained is difficult to ascertain. London printers were quick to stamp down on theft. On 11 January 1797 Stephen Robert Hickson was indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing the sheets of seven plays from the offices of the London printer and bookseller George Cawthorne, who stated:

I employed the prisoner at the bar. I was convinced there were thieves among the men in the press-room. I charged them with it; and, on the 3d of December, I went into the printing-house and detected this man in the act, with a number of sheets before him folded, and in the act of folding more; I asked him what they were; he said they were spoiled sheets […]. I examined them, and found that they were perfect sheets, nothing spoiled in them, […] I had four months before told them, the first I detected I would prosecute, that none had a right to take a sheet of paper out of my premises, without having it from me."

In defence the claim was made that there was among both pressmen and compositors "a custom in the trade, which is claimed by workmen, of having a copy of each book they print". Cawthorn's overseer Colin Macrae stated: "I have frequently heard of the custom, but I know of no printing office, but the King's printing-office, where it is allowed [but in practice] they are paid money in lieu of a copy. I have heard them say there is an act of Elizabeth, which gives them that right."

Cawthorne produced several printers as expert witnesses to prove that there is no such custom. Thomas Bensley stated "I never had any such claim made in my house, nor I never heard of any. […] There was, some time ago, a case which Mr. Lane brought before my Lord-Mayor where some of his men did make a similar claim to this; but […] when my Lord Mayor desired a meeting of masters and journeymen to decide the claim, they would not meet, and it has always been understood, that they had no such claim." Jonas Davis stated: "I have certainly heard of such a claim, and I think I am bound to say, that numbers of the men think they have […] some crude notion, which is totally unfounded; if every man was allowed to save a sheet, it would take away the whole of the printer's profit; it would amount to twenty pounds a week in my house; but there certainly is such a claim."

So it is possible that compositors or pressmen could feel justified in selling proof sheets or a set of unbound final printings to agents of the Parisian publisher, but they would be running a risk, at any rate in well-regulated firms. In 1832 Scott was in Italy and wrote to Cadell on 2 June 1832 that he found the continent flooded with copies printed from stolen proofs by "that scoundrel pirate Galignani". He wrote again to Cadell the following day that James Ballantyne was a "chatterer" and wile he chattered his men purloined the sheets from under his nose. "If he does not rule his Pandaemonium better I will find a means for vengeance for I think the printer is bound to keep his business secret and I don't understand being told by the head of a large establishment that he cannot help the theft of his workmen."

Scott had similar problems with his publishers. In 1831 Archibald Constable's son planned to publish his father's correspondence with Scott. Scott wrote to the advocate Thomas Thomson (1768-1852) asking him to negotiate. He could not publish in Britain without consent and Scott would give a small sum to keep the correspondence out of the hands of piratical publishers like Galignani.

Authors could be a source of advance sheets on occasion. As there were no copyright agreements in place between Britain and France at that time, what publishers such as Baudry and Galignani were doing was not illegal and, realising that on publication reprints were inevitable, some authors were inclined to make a little money by selling proof sheets to a publisher in Paris so that he could get his edition out in advance of his competitors. Sir Walter Scott visited what he called the old pirate's den at the bottom of a court at no. 18 rue Vivienne in 1826. In his journal for 6 November he writes: "Went to Galignani's, where the brothers, after some palaver, offered me £105 for the sheets of Napoleon, to be reprinted at Paris in English. I told them I would think of it. I suppose Treuttel and Wurtz had apprehended something of this kind, for they write me that they had made a bargain with my publisher (Cadell, I suppose) for the publishing of my book in all sorts of ways. I must look into this."

Galignani's 'den' although in the heart of Paris, boasted a garden with mature trees and it served as a club for English residents and visitors, who paid six francs a month, the reading room containing English and continental newspapers and thousands of foreign language books. In the autumn of 1824, William Hazlitt started a year on the continent, passing the winter in Italy and then making his way via the Simplon to Switzerland. Throughout his travels he was able to read Walter Scott and kept up with news from home. He found "Scotch novels (to be had in every library on the Continent, in English, French, German, or Italian, as the reader pleases), or M. Galignani's Paris and London Observer". Like many other English travellers and residents Hazlitt benefited from systems of support for reading developed by the continental book trade. On his arrival in Paris in 1826 Sir Walter Scott immediately set about making contacts, but with little success. On 30 October he wrote in his journal: "Found no one at home, not even the old pirate Galignani, at whose den I ventured to call." This may be the occasion described by Hazlitt who writes: "When he was in Paris and went to Galignani's, he sat down in an outer room to look at some book he wanted to see; none of the clerks had the least suspicion who he was. When it was found out, the place was in a commotion." In fact Galignani's reading rooms was a fashionable lounging place for all visitors to Paris in the years after Waterloo. It was possible to browse the latest English, French, German, and Italian newspapers and reviews, as well as subscribe on reasonable terms to borrow the latest books in English, French, German, and Italian. According to its catalogue of 1813, Galignani's salon littéraire possessed 1,440 titles, and by 1817 the circulating library's collection had grown to twenty thousand volumes. The reading rooms even maintained a book of "arrivals and addresses of the English in Paris" to facilitate introductions and socializing and there was also a poste restante service where letters could be directed and picked up.

Piracy was also encouraged by the considerably lower price of books reprinted in Paris. Costs of production were lower in France, partly because of abundant supplies of paper but also because of the taxes levied on printed materials produced in Britain, for example stamp duty. Copyright laws in England giving monopoly rights in an author's work to a particular publisher also acted to suppress competition and keep book prices high. The rise of the three decker novel in the 1820s, where each volume cost half a guinea, meaning that a complete novel cost the exhorbitant price of £1 11s 6d, placed access to much literature beyond the reach of most people and effectively confined its distribution to circulating libraries. In Paris novels were often reprinted in one or two volumes, as is the case with Baudry's edition of Kenilworth and this made them cheaper. It was possible to secure copyright for British books published in France but only by the tortuous process of negotiating with a French publisher who could obtain a purely French copyright by publishing the book within France.

In defence of the pirates, their distribution was largely limited to the Continent – this was often a condition of agreements negotiated with Parisian publishers. Galignani and his rivals also did much to promote English literature in France. Galignani's Repertory or literary gazette printed excerpts from the British press covering activities in the arts, developments in science, and reviews of the most recent literature. In 1814, when English visitors began to flood the Continent after the fall of Napoleon, Galignani issued his Pictures of Paris, which, renamed the New Paris guide, was updated annually until 1900. Galignani's messenger also launched in 1814, an English-language newspaper was very widely read. Byron was a "constant reader" and relied on it as his only source of knowledge concerning parliamentary debates. Nor were the Parisian publishers the only culprits. In Germany there were several firms publishing reprints and translations of English literature, notably Treuttel and Wurz of Strasbourg.

In 1852 a copyright treaty between England and France finally put a stop to Galignani's reprints. As soon as the treaty was signed, the Galignani brothers bowed to the inevitable and immediately put their last pirated editions on sale at one twentieth the price of the London editions and a murky period of the international book trade came to an end, although the Librairie Galignani continues to flourish in Paris, proudly describing itself as "the first English bookshop established on the Continent".

A nice Devonian aspect to this little investigation is the fact that the journeyman printer Charles Manby Smith was born in Tiverton in 1804, just eight miles north of the place that our copy of Kenilworth has come to rest.

Sources consulted include:

Note: All on-line sources were accessed during March 2016.

Barber, Giles: "Galignani's and the Publication of English Books in France from 1800 to 1852", Library 5th series, vol. 16 (1961), p. 267–286

Bibliotheque Nationale. Biographical data files, including: (Galignani) (Galignani) (Pinard) thomas-francois_rignoux/

Cooper-Richet, Diana. La librairie étrangère à Paris au XIXe siècle : un milieu perméable aux innovations et aux transferts.


Librairie Galignani.

Old Bailey on-line.

Scott, Walter. The Letters of Sir Walter Scott 1819-1921, edited by H. J. C. Grierson. – London : Constable and Co Ltd, 1934.

Scott, Walter. The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the original manuscript at Abbotsford. – Edinburgh : David Douglas, 1890. Vol. 2

Smith, Charles Manby. The working man's way in the world: being the autobiography of a journeyman printer. London : W. and F. G. Cash, 1857.

Tetreault, Ronald. "Publishers, "pirates," and the formation of Regency authorship". In: English Studies in Canada, 38:2, (June 2012) , p.29-48.


Copyright © Ian Maxted 2016
This page last updated 17 March 2016