The book trade in the 19th centurye century

The book trade in the 19th century<sup>e</sup> century

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Title: Popular Life publishes The human beast by Emile Zola.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1890

Date shown: 1890

Dimensions: Height 145 - Width 100

Technique and other indications: Champenois & Cie Printing.

Storage location: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo National Library of France

Picture reference: East. AFF-Champenois-Rouleau NUMM 3

Popular Life publishes The human beast by Emile Zola.

© Photo National Library of France

Publication date: December 2006

Historical context

The triumph of print production

In the history of the book, the XIXe century represents the triumphant age of print production. According to statistics provided by the Bibliography of France and the Catalog of the French bookshop, we observe a doubling of book production between 1840 and 1890. This new and spectacular growth of the printed book goes hand in hand with that of the French economy and society: while the economy is booming at this period, illiteracy continues to decline and the phenomenon of urbanization is growing, increasing the number of potential readers: by 26% of the total population in the mid-19th centurye century, the urban population reached 44% on the eve of the First World War. Having become an object of everyday consumption, the book benefits from an efficient sales network based on local travelers and distributors and new distribution circuits such as newspapers, advertising or station libraries to penetrate the market. daily space.

Image Analysis

The novel and advertising

Main beneficiary of this cultural revolution, the novel experienced a considerable boom from the Restoration, to prance at the head of print production from the 1840s, supplanting de facto theater and poetry. A true social phenomenon, the novel asserts itself as the dominant literary genre and is gaining more and more readers. Flaubert's heroine, Emma Bovary, is the perfect illustration of this, she who, from her youth at the college in Rouen, devoured popular novels and fashionable authors, seeking a diversion from the daily routine. The main instrument of promotion of the novel was the press, in full swing under the July Monarchy which saw the birth of newspapers with large circulation such as the press by Emile de Girardin or the century. Still restricted in the 1830s, the newspaper audience continued to expand, thanks to the implementation of new editorial strategies such as lowering the price of the subscription, the inclusion in the pages of the newspaper of advertisements and publication of novels in weekly or daily deliveries.

Emile Zola, who served as head of publicity for the publisher Hachette from 1862 to 1866 and was closely interested in the bookstore business, very early on understood the importance of the serial novel to capture the greatest number of readers and increase the sales of his works in bookstores. Throughout his career, he pre-published all his novels in the form of serials in the newspapers of the time, as evidenced by this advertising poster announcing the publication of The Human Beast as a soap opera in Popular Life. Through the representation of two protagonists of the story united in a violent embrace, this poster announces a colorful passionate drama likely to excite the curiosity of readers. They also reserved a very favorable reception for the book, one of the darkest works of the writer, with 99,000 copies sold in 1902. The poster was also a means of publicity for publishers and booksellers. who very quickly take over from the newspapers to distribute the fictional writings of the authors they publish or sell.


The "second book revolution"

From the first decades of the century, voices were raised to denounce this industrialization of literature and the transformation of books into commodities. Sainte-Beuve, under the July Monarchy, sparked controversy with its famous pamphlet From industrial literature appeared in the Review of two worlds in 1839 and directed against the soap opera, which he accused of killing literature. However, evolution was inevitable. The novels of Dumas, Balzac or Eugène Sue appearing in newspapers met, like popular literature, an immense success in the middle of the century, and the upheaval of editorial structures led to the appearance of a new mass market. This “second book revolution” thus affected increasingly diverse social categories towards the end of the century. Linked to the book market, soap opera or bookstore posters are of great documentary interest in this regard for understanding the commercial aspect of the novel, serialized or edited in volume. Benefiting from technical progress in the field of typography and the development of lithography, the poster can be addressed to a large audience thanks to the use of color images which immediately attracts the attention of customers. It highlights the growing role of the press and the publisher in the distribution of books within French society.

  • literature
  • Zola (Emile)
  • naturalism
  • Balzac (Honoré de)
  • Flaubert (Gustave)
  • Dumas (Alexandre)
  • July Monarchy
  • hurry
  • Restoration
  • serial novel
  • Sainte-Beuve (Charles-Augustin)
  • trade


The 19th century bookstore poster, catalog of the Musée d'Orsay exhibition, 25 May-30 August 1987], Paris: RMN, 1987. Roger CHARTIER and Henri-Jean MARTIN (eds.), History of the French edition, t.III, Paris, Promodis, 1985. Lise QUEFFÉLEC, The French serial novel in the 19th century, Paris, PUF, 1989.Anne-Marie THIESSE, The daily novel. Popular readers and readings in the Belle Epoque, Paris, Le Seuil, 2000.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The book trade in the XIXe century "

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