MEMORANDUM ON THE VEXATIONS CAUSED BY THE BOOKSELLERS
AND PRINTERS OF PARIS
In the halcyon days when Francis I, father and restorer of Letters,
exerted himself to encourage the blossoming of printing, so necessary to
the progress of Knowledge, there appeared men such as Estienne, Morel,
Turnèbe, Colinée, Patisson and Vascosan, men of letters all, talented in
their profession and concerned more with its perfection than with making
Since these early masters, so respected by the truly learned, we have
seen Nivelle, Vitré, Cramoisi, Camusat, Bilaine, men able to console the
Republic of Letters over the loss of their predecessors.
But into what decadence is this important art fallen today, especially
in Paris? What a distance there is between the printers I have just named,
and those men who currently dabble in Printing and who, debasing this noble
art with the basest parsimony, deserve at best to be called vulgar merchants.
The first were industrious and dedicated men, well-versed in literature
and the idioms of learning, while those of today are concerned only with their
own gain, or their own pleasure, unlearned and for the most part without
education, men who are, we might say, ignorant and untutored, indocti primum
If some of their number received schooling, they have retained only the
most superficial veneer, too little to make them even eighths of scholars,
while the others are tradesmen who have made their fortunes in the buying and
selling of books, and who have in their youth exercised such varied and ill-
suited professions that it is nothing short of astounding to see them become
printers. Yet printers they are, despite the existence of men of letters and
learning; they are moreover rich, and learned men will never become so; and
indeed, to what astonishing figure did the fortune of Desalliers rise? That of
Thierry? And that of our famous contemporary Emery, who sometime played the
role of Trivelin to a potion-vendor on the Pont-Neuf.
It is with good reason that they recently attempted to restrict access to
their company to those who understand Latin and who are at least able to read
Greek. They were sorely in need of this reform, and at the present rate it
seems unlikely that this charming regulation will maintain them in an honest
mediocrity of ignorance.
What we say here of those who dabble in printing and bookselling in Paris
should not be seen to reflect on that very small number of Printers and
Booksellers whose merit and ability are known, and who lament the ignorance,
opulence and arrogance of their brethren.
It is well known that Messrs Thibout, Sevestre and several other Printers
who work alone are able men, whose voices are well heeded within their profession.
It is also easy to set apart Mr Martin, who is a true man of letters, well-versed
in great books and well respected by other learned men.
But after these, the catalogue of the good would be most short, and the rest
may sadly not even aspire to the title of mediocrities.
This pompous company, which has grown thanks to the bibliomania that reigns
among men of finance and fortune, through vanity rather than taste and intelligence;
this company, I say, of modern Booksellers was previously confined to a small
number of peddlers who laid out before church gates their little books of hours,
vulgarly called 'camelotes'.
Such was their lot, and if they ventured outside these narrow limits, they
were reprimanded by the Rector of the University, under whose authority they found
themselves at that time.
Whereas books were sold by distinguished Booksellers chosen