Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2014 Issue

Louis Mandrin vs. The Fermiers Généraux - A Political Testament

C4db1293-93af-4ad4-86ee-18c16792dccf

Histoire de Louis Mandrin.

As I was reading the Life of Mandrin the other day, I started to wonder why this villain (1725-1755) had become so popular a myth in France. Tracking down the hypothetical truth, I was led from one old book to another, until I reached Corinne Townley, author of La Véritable Histoire de Mandrin (The True Story of Mandrin, 2005) on the phone. “Mandrin was a very mean and violent man,” she confirmed. “But he was portrayed as a French Robin Hood because he was used as a political tool against the famous Fermiers Généraux, who collected taxes during the Ancien Régime.” Now, that put me on the right track.

 

 

A Peddling Book

 

Sign of his popularity, Louis Mandrin made it to the peddling books of the early 19th century. Usually short, they dealt with popular and light topics, as they aimed at a wide audience. They were poor quality books printed in huge quantities. Nevertheless, those dedicated to Mandrin, for instance, have become quite rare. The other day, I had to fight harder than expected to win a copy of La Vie de Mandrin printed in 1827 in Paris. It’s actually a reprint of Histoire de Louis Mandrin, attributed to Abbé Regley (Holland, 1756 for the second edition—I couldn’t spot the first one). Both editions feature a portrait of the villain as a frontispiece; but the one of 1827 is different, it looks like a charcoal drawing with Mandrin wearing a uniform and the famous hat he stole from one of his many victims. He looks handsome and serious—the book gives his physical description: “Said to be tall, with black and curly hair, Mandrin had an aquiline nose and regular features, a broad chest, and a well-shaped thigh; he was unusually strong.” To reduce the cost, the publisher turned an in-12° volume of 140 pages into an in-18° of 79 pages—a tour de force. This copy has a contemporary half-morocco binding, which is quite unusual as these books were usually sold and stored in their original wrappers—another way to cut down the price. It contains several incorrect “facts,” of course, and was probably hastily put together while the iron was hot—right after Mandrin’s execution in 1755. The idea was to attract the readers with dark and thrilling stories, but the printer made sure he didn’t hurt neither the King nor morality: “The lives of villains who have declared war to the society at large,” reads the preface, “(...) show the young persons the horrible consequences of a life of crime and vice.” Obviously, this book wasn’t the starting point of Mandrin’s good reputation.

 

A Violent Man

 

The book portrays Mandrin as a bloodthirsty psychopath. A young an innocent woman, who was looking for her lost dog, unwittingly stepped into Mandrin’s cave one day—his legendary hideout in the mountains. He tied her to a pole and undressed her totally. “He insulted and mistreated her numerous times,” reads the book. He then forced one of his reluctant men to stab her to death: “He put the knife into his hand, saying: “You’re not experienced yet, I want to instruct you. (...) See this other knife? I’ll stab you if you do not obey. (...) Stab her at the tip of her breast.” But the poor boy was too moved by his victim, so Mandrin grabbed his hand and plunged the knife into the girl’s chest. Blood spurred and the wretched victim uttered a high-pitched cry. What a dramatic scene! I found it a little bit too much, to be honest—and yet. “Mandrin’s popularity lasted less than two years, from 1753 to 1755,” said Corinne Townley. “But he was convicted many times before, and accused of several horrible crimes, including the murder of a little girl.”

 

One day, Mandrin broke into the house of one Moret, employee of the Ferme Générale, whom he knew was responsible for the arrest—and, consequently, execution—of one of his brothers. “In order to soften his aggressor, Moret presented him his 18 months old son. “You arrested my brother and you beg for mercy?” retorted the villain. “Perish, you and your child! May your entire race disappear.” He repeatedly hit them with his sword, not stopping until their cut off bodies lay in a pool of blood.” Now, that was too much—right? Well, in fact, it wasn’t either. The Jugement Souverain of May 24, 1755, that officially condemned Mandrin to death, relates this story. It took place in Mandrin’s native town of Saint Geoirs where, on his way to Switzerland, he killed the said Sigismond-Jacques Moret, employee, and a child of 18 months he was holding in his arms. According to the same document, Mandrin and his men killed over 22 persons between 1753 and 1755, including a pregnant woman. The latter was killed in Saint-Rome de Tharn after a bourgeois, or a rich merchant, had escaped through her house. The official Jugement doesn’t clearly state that Mandrin killed her himself, but the peddling book does: “Mandrin stabbed her in the belly with his bayonet. (...) Thus an infant felt the iron before even seeing the light.

 

Though people tend to consider criminals like some sort of popular heroes who revenge them from an oppressive system, this book gives no reason to consider Mandrin as a lovable rascal. “People don’t know the real story of Mandrin,” underlined Corinne Townley. “They only know about the popular myth who opposed the Ferme Générale.”

 

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions