Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment

ISBN : 9780195144529

Robert Darnton
416 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2021
Send mail

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 A 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.


1. The Rules of the Game and How the Game was Played
2. The Landscape in Paris
3. The Fertile Crescent
4. How to Pirate a Book
5. Portraits of Pirates and Their Businesses
6. Underground Geneva
7. A Confederation of Pirates
8. The Struggle to Pirate Rousseau and Voltaire
Inside a Swiss Publishing House
9. Business as Usual
10. Our Man in Paris
11. Relations with Authors
12. Making and Losing Money

About the author: 

Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian, Emeritus of Harvard University, and the author of The Great Cat Massacre (1984) and A Literary Tour de France (2018), among others.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.