The French Booktrade and the 'Permission Simple' of 1777

BookThe French Booktrade and the 'Permission Simple' of 1777

The French Booktrade and the 'Permission Simple' of 1777

Copyright and Public Domain with an Edition of the Permit Registers

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 301


January 1st, 1992



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In 1777 a series of royal decrees heralded the restructuring of the French booktrade. An important innovation was the creation of a public domainfor certain kinds of books whose privilège (or ‘copyright’) had expired. In order not to relinquish control over a vast category of books, the government decided to implement a new kind of printing and publishing permit – the ‘permission simple’.
As historian and bibliologist, the author examines the many issues involved in the implementation of the permit, explaining the circumstances that led to the creation of a public domain, the economic policies of the government with respect to the ‘permission simple’, and what exactly the procedures entailed. Other issues concerning the permit are also covered: edition runs; a number of illicit activities; the relationship of free trade, the physiocrats and Turgot to booktrade policies; the significance of Diderot’s Lettre sur le commerce de la librairie.
The study is largely based on hitherto unpublished sources and on books printed by virtue of the permit. Included in the volume is an edition of the ‘permission simple’ ledgers. This is the first time that the registers of an entire category of French books printed by virtue of a given authorisation have been published. They contain references to nearly two thousand editions – many today lost – of a wide variety of works. Theentries are invaluable for the information they provide about the output of many important provincial printers and booksellers. Together the two registers provide a unique picture of French book production during thedozen years or so preceding the Revolution.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations15
1. The 'permission simple' yesterday and today24
2. A royal decree and its consequences35
A. The decree35
B. Prelude37
C. Controversy54
D. The fee58
E. The administration and the permit73
3. lnside the registers78
A. The model78
B. Paris and the permit81
C. War against the Paris trade: the newly formed public domain88
4. The bibliographical evidence of the registers105
A. New works and old105
B. The deposit110
C. Anomalies117
D. Cazin131
E. Further problems171
5. Fraud181
A. Edition runs and related issues181
B. Piracies195
C. Other problems relating to fraud211
6. Conclusion224
Appendix 1: Select bibliography of eighteenth-century books246
Abbreviations and brief explanations247
List of works described248
Appendix 2: Hitherto unpublished excerpts from Hardy's journal, Mes loisirs300
Excerpts from the journal301
Appendix 3: The 'Tableau des ouvrages jugés communs'323
The 'permission simple' data328
List of main entries334
The data370
Bibliography of source material628