Monday, February 12, 2007

Early censorship in France

The Bastille, Porte and Faubourg St. Antoine, ca. 16th-17th cent.

According to Starr's 1st chapter in Early Modern Origins, he states:

"Down to the revolution, the French state continued to exercise
direct supervision over the realm of print through prepublication censorship and an extensive system of book police. Approval for publication could come in the form of a privilege, which confirmed an exclusive right to publish, or a tacit permission, which the regime granted to works that it was willing to allow without formal approval. Censorship wasn't completely effective, but that doesn't mean it was completely inconsequential. The state committed substantial resources to enforcement. By 1750, there were 130 censors; over the
entire period from 1659 to 1789, 17% of the prisoners in the Bastille were sent there for offenses related to the book trade.
(p. 42)".

I found the contrast between France and England's control on publications to be interesting. As Starr related, English publishers had far more freedom to create new publications and sought wider markets, while France sought monopoly privileges, and cultivated a more limited readership (p. 42).


At 12:12 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good substantive post.

Starr is arguing that different nations made different constitutive choices about the development of print. The differences between France and England illustrate this. Both nations engaged in censorship. Ultimately those systems broke down because of revolution and civil war.

Isn't the concept of "book police" interesting. The number of prisoners in the Bastille for book related offenses also proves how seriously the French monarchy took this threat.


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