French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, 1769-1794

Mark Curran, Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, shared some exciting news about a database which reconstructs, using GIS, the passage of more than 400 000 copies of 4 000 books throughout Europe in the 18th century. The data are drawn from the archives of the STN (Société Typographique de Neuchâtel), one of the only publishers from the period whose archives exist and which are relatively complete. Robert Darnton has written several books based on his eleven years of research in the STN’s archives (see the Business of Enlightenment as an example), and some of the letters from the STN’s archives are included in the Electronic Enlightenment database.


Project website

Project blog

The business of Enlightenment (Google Books)

Electronic enlightenment


I recently joined SHARP-L (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing List-serv) and am finding it so worthwhile. In a recent thread, a post-doctoral fellow at Ghent University in Belgium, Yuri Cowan, reflected on her recent experiences teaching 2nd year undergraduate students “Elements of material bibliography and print culture” at the University of Toronto. Her class, which consisted of 100 students (wow!) was given a final assignment consisting of a bibliographical description of a pre-1800 book accompanied by a reflective essay. One of the students “noted a mysterious stain on a page halfway through an eighteenth-century medical texts [sic], a stain which looked suspiciously like blood, and in her reflective essay she ventured that the book might actually have been referred to during a dissection or anatomy lesson.  Was she right?  Who knows?  and anyway that stain was certainly not part of the history of the book’s production.  Yet the fact of her seizing upon that mysterious stain shows that the inclusion of the history of reading and use, and of the social history of print culture, has real pedagogical value in the classroom, if only because it encourages attention to detail and a sense of the ways in which the material book is shaped not only by its making, but by its subsequent use and reuse.”

The value of joining this list-serv is already evident. The value and ways of using primary sources in the classroom are becoming clearer!

Voltaire’s Candide: a bibliographic laboratory (New York Public Library)

An audio recording of a discussion held at the NYPL on April 15, 2010, part of the NYPL’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the publishing of Candide.

Some very forward thinking about libraries, library exhibitions, and connecting with our publics, both as cultural and educational institutions. I am inspired by the staff of the NYPL who turned this event into an amazing online experience – for those, like me, who could not see the exhibit.


Here’s a screen capture of the NYPL’s website devoted to Candide.