Synopses & Reviews
In the late-18th century in Paris, a group of booksellers and printers gained a dominant position in the sale and distribution of the writings of Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot, among other luminaries. In short they controlled the business of the Enlightenment itself, and at a crucial moment in history. Outside of France, however, works by these authors were pirated, republished, and distributed to a broader public. Rather than depress the publishing industry, then in its infancy, book piracy vastly expanded its reach.
Robert Darnton offers a richly detailed and sweeping study of the world of writing, publishing, and bookselling in pre-Revolutionary France, expanding on his celebrated works devoted to the literary world of the Ancien R�gime, Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France and, most recently, A Literary Tour de France. In Publishing and Pirating, Darnton illuminates the ways in which audacious publishers and pirates brought the voices of the Enlightenment to every corner of France, feeding the ideas that would explode into the first revolution of modern times.
In the late-18th century, a group of publishers in what historian Robert Darnton calls the "Fertile Crescent" countries located along the French border, stretching from Holland to Switzerland pirated the works of prominent (and often banned) French writers and distributed them in France, where laws governing piracy were in flux and any notion of "copyright" very much in its infancy. Piracy was entirely legal and everyone acknowledged tacitly or openly that these pirated editions of works by Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot, among other luminaries, supplied a growing readership within France, one whose needs could not be met by the monopolistic and tightly controlled Paris Guild.
Darnton's book focuses principally on a publisher in Switzerland, one of the largest and whose archives are the most complete. Through the lens of this concern, he offers a sweeping view of the world of writing, publishing, and especially bookselling in pre-Revolutionary France--a vibrantly detailed inside look at a cut-throat industry that was struggling to keep up with the times and, if possible, make a profit off them. Featuring a fascinating cast of characters lofty idealists and down-and-dirty opportunists this new book expands upon on Darnton's celebrated work on book-publishing in France, most recently found in Literary Tour de France. Pirating and Publishing reveals how and why piracy brought the Enlightenment to every corner of France, feeding the ideas that would explode into revolution.