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The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France
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The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  100 ratings  ·  6 reviews
Robert Darnton's work is one of the main reasons that cultural history has become an exciting study central to our understanding of the past.

More popular than the canon of the great Enlightenment philosophers were other books, also banned by the regime, written and sold "under the cloak." These formed a libertine literature that was a crucial part of the culture of dissent
Paperback, 440 pages
Published April 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 1995)
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I went to France this past summer so, given my history kick, I thought I'd give this another try. In grad school, one of the seminars focused on French history and cultural history. So I remember that books were illegally trafficked but I don't remember much else about this book.

So, it took 91 pages for me to find something in the book that interested me. It's not that I don't appreciate the research. It's amazing to dissimenate the culture of dissent by looking at the books people were illegal
Fascinating and highly readable, as his other books have been. This is the second of his books on the book industry of pre-Revolutionary France; the other covered more conventional works of philosophy such as Rousseau while this one focuses more on pornography, anti-church books, and seditious material.

This becomes even more interesting when you realize philosophical books were the illegal drugs of the 17th and 18th centuries, with book smugglers sneaking unbound books into cities hidden in wine
Sarah Wagner
I read this book for a class on the French Enlightenment and it was a nice break from reading Voltaire and Rousseau to actually read works even more popular than the great philosophers! This book provides a more diverse picture of French society before the revolution and really digs into the underlying problems of French society and culture. Fascinating!
Sherwood Smith
Darnton does what he sets out to do: give an overview of forbidden books in France during the later 1600s and through the 1700s. He also talks about the forbidden presses, as well as lists what the popular books were. (The reader will be amazed to discover that one of the top sellers was not just porn, as one would think, but a science fiction story supposedly set in Paris in the year 2000, whose author amended it right on through the Revolution, claiming that he'd predicted it.)
it's not a page-turner per se, but definitly interesting to learn about how they got their kicks before beheading royalty.
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Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library
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