Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

Article excerpt

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1992. 172 pp. $35

This slim book, comprising Eisenstein's Lytell Lectures in bibliography at Oxford University (1989-1990), represents the distillation of a lifetime of knowledge by this distinguished professor, now emerita at Michigan. Moreover, these lectures highlight a neglected area, the importance of French-language publications outside of territorial France, a topic (among many) begun in her 1979 two-volume classic, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change.

Extending her study from the emigration of French Huguenot literati in the 1680s after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes through the Enlightenment and up to the Revolution, Eisenstein stresses the significance of this cosmopolitan network of publishers who transcended national boundaries, spreading French ideas throughout Europe. In so doing she debunks a number of ideas current in modern scholarship. For example, by emphasizing that these extraterritorial publishers were intellectuals as well as businessmen, she provides a corrective to those such as Robert Darnton, who stress the business aspects of Enlightenment publishing. In focusing on the history of ideas, she provides a contrast to those such as Roger Chartier, who focus on the "cultural uses of print" as a tool of social control.

Summarizing the work of other critics, she argues against Margaret Jacob's idea of a radical inner circle of subversive freemasonry. She also critiques the idea (Dena Goodman's) that the late Enlightenment revolved around salon life and argues that the French expatriate press was highly influential in shaping Enlightenment views. …

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