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The Forbidden Best Sellers Of Pre Revolutionary France

(France and Culture)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  197 ratings  ·  11 reviews
More popular than the canon of the great Enlightenment philosophes 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 in the Old Regime. Robert Darnton explores the cultural and political significance of these "bad" books and introduces readers to three of th ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published February 20th 1997 by Fontana Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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J.M. Hushour
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you come across works of history whose playful iconoclasm and poking and prodding of established historiography is actually more interesting than the actual subject at hand. Darnton, who wrote the terrific "Great Cat Massacre" challenges establishment views of the French Revolution and its links to the Enlightenment by hesitantly making inroads towards a history of reading. Hilariously, what he ends up with is more questions than answers and he has a lot of fun doing it.
His basic argum
Katherine Addison
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18th-century
As you can kind of tell by the title, this is an academic book, recommended to me to a friend because one of the things going on in my current ms is, yes, the manufacture and sale of pornography. (I don't know how I got there, either.) This is a very good academic book, less about pornography per se than about how books on the forbidden list (which includes pornography, philosophy, and libelous (and frequently pornographic) biographies of Louis XV and his mistresses and ministers) circulated in ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Wagner
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jun 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Way, waaaaaay more wonkish than a book about pornography has any right to be. Interesting, though.
Interesting (a bit dry perhaps, in some sections - but still quite a rewarding text).

(And I think that perhaps Susan Darnton deserves a bigger and more enthusiastic thank you, for her translation of the French texts - since they make up quite a large chunk of the book.)
Wenqian Liu
Found it quite dull for non-literature/history major readers.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.) ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
it's not a page-turner per se, but definitly interesting to learn about how they got their kicks before beheading royalty. ...more
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Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library

Other books in the series

France and Culture (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France
  • The Literary Underground of the Old Regime
  • The Business of Enlightenment: Publishing History of the "Encyclopédie," 1775-1800
  • Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris
  • The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History
  • Revolution in Print: The Press in France, 1775-1800
  • What Was Revolutionary About The French Revolution?
  • The Corpus Of Clandestine Literature In France, 1769 1789
  • A Literary Tour de France: The World of Books on the Eve of the French Revolution
  • The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History

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