Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2014 Issue

Blessed Mr. TIGER, or the Pilier Littéraire

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The corner of Rue de la Huchette and Rue du Petit-Pont in Paris (where Tiger's shop once stood).

At the turn of the 19th century, when printing went through major changes, one bookseller made a name for himself by publishing dozens of popular titles. Simple, short and of lower quality, they met the needs of the time, and thus became successful. Meet Mr Tiger, owner of the famous Pilier Littéraire, located at 10 rue du Petit-Pont, in Paris!

 

I went to Paris the other day, in the Latin Quarter. I reached rue du Petit-Pont, one of the oldest streets of the capital, and then I walked up to the corner of Rue de la Huchette. Here it was... well, here it once was—the small and dark workshop of Christophe-César-Jean-Baptiste Tiger (1759-1825), the famous Pilier Littéraire. It used to stand at number 10, according to the title pages of my books, “at the bottom of rue Saint-Jacques”. But things have changed, and number 10 stands far from the corner of rue de la Huchette—so which of the two corners was the right one? I entered the jewellery store on the right, but the young saleswoman had no idea what I meant by “long ago”. Nobody in the café on the left could help me either, and I couldn’t follow the indications left by Cordelier Delano any further—in 1834, he paid a tribute to the Pilier Littéraire in Le Diable Boiteux à Paris (Stuttgart): “When you enter rue Saint-Jacques, close to the Petit-Pont, you find a huge shop of novelties at the corner of rue de la Huchette. There used to stand the honourable workshop of Mr Tiger, the Pilier Littéraire, the sanctified ground where, from ancient times, were created the double almanac of Liège, the almanac of Paris, of Rouen, and the popular stories of Cartouche and Mandrin.”

 

These popular books that suddenly flooded the market at the turn of the 19th century became known as peddling books. Printed in a small format (in-18°) and huge quantities on a mediocre paper, they were usually illustrated with an engraved frontispiece, and they were the cornerstones of Mr Tiger’s empire of paper. We don’t know much about Mr Tiger, except that he started in 1786 as a master binder in Paris—he was then based on Place Cambrai. He published his first books at the same time, and claimed to decorate and look after private book collections, and to make covers for every kind of almanac. The French revolution of 1789 abolished all constraints on book printing, and Mr Tiger seized the opportunity. “He established himself as a printer-bookseller as well as a printer of steel engravings,” states the French National Library, “he was also doing type foundry.” He wasn’t the only opportunist at the time, as the amount of booksellers doubled between 1780 and 1800 in Paris.

 

Almanacs

 

Mr Tiger specialized in almanacs, annual publications that, apart from a regular calendar, featured various pieces of work such as recipes, riddles or songs. They became the most printed and the most read books of the time, just after the Bible. Cordelier Delanoue had a lot of respect for almanacs—and the people who printed them: “Not far from the former shop of the Pilier Littéraire,” he went on, “we can still see a small and smoky shop, with an almost unreadable old sign: Aux Associés, Demoraine & Thébaud, booksellers. Specialized in almanacs of all kinds, religious, hymns and prayer books. Blessed are these offices! Blessed is Mr Tiger! Blessed is Mr Demoraine! Here, in those mysterious laboratories, the moms and kids of the community, and the nuns (...) come to buy their prayer books, their calendars and their songbooks. (...) Ô Demoraine! Ô Tiger! Duet of athletes! Duet of elders! Eternal joy of small bookshops, and of the Petit-Pont! Your shop, dark and shadowy as it is, shines brighter than all the golden panels of the vain bookshops of the Palais-Royal.” In fact, Delanoue seems to be speaking of the same shop, as the widow Demoraine was the “successor of the famous Tiger of the Pilier Littéraire.” (Emile Morige, 1834). The same Emile Morige stated that she was then printing 180,000 copies a year of the Parisian Astrologue almanac!

 

The early Tiger editions—before 1800—are hard to spot. We know that he moved to the Collège des Cholets in 1797, before settling at rue du Mont-Hilaire in 1798; then he went to rue Etienne-des-Grès in 1799, came back to Place Cambrai in 1800, to eventually open his bookshop rue du Petit-Pont, n°10, “at the corner of la Huchette, at the bottom of rue Saint-Jacques”, as written on the title pages. By then, his productions become more frequent.

 

He obtained his licence of bookseller in 1812, but was denied the one of printer in 1811—we know that he complained to the Minister of Justice in April 1811. The free market applied to books had generated too much confusion (and maybe too many pamphlets?) and Napoleon decided to put an end to it in February 1810. To obtain their licence, booksellers had to go through a police investigation, and prove their good morals as well as their loyalty to their country. Anyway, Mr Tiger kept on selling books until he went bankrupt in 1811. But he wasn’t out of business and was certified bookseller again on September 11, 1818. When he died in Paris on April 30, 1825, his licence apparently went to his widow, then to Alexandre-François Selligue, an engineer from Geneva who, in 1829, recorded a patent for a typographic press with a continuous movement, “that can print on both sides, and works with a steam engine.” (Revue Encyclopédique,1821).

 

Tiger’s Plutarchs

 

Nobody really knows Mr Tiger or the Pilier Littéraire nowadays. After a prosperous period, peddling books were replaced by serialized novels around 1850, and were disregarded as worthless readings. Mr Tiger published short, attractive and efficient books—in a word, profitable. He needed to sell books, so he focused on simple topics. He talked about popular heroes such as Mandrin or Cartouche, he related well-known tragedies (the shipwreck of La Méduse), or contemporary stories (such as the Napoleonic wars). He was an opportunist, who published an ode to Napoleon in 1806, and then The Corsican bandit, or crimes, forfeits and sins of Nicolas Bonaparte, in 1816. In the former, Napoleon is “a God from the mount Olympus”; in the latter, “a man who, thanks to his boldness, his hypocrisy, his forfeits and crimes, has sat on the highest throne of Europe.” As a matter of fact, most of his books were anonymous; even his almanac of Liège, the heart of his empire, was a counterfeit publication of what M. Froment called “the true almanac of Liège printed by Madam Bourguignon,” and which “wasn’t officially distributed in France where it only entered surreptitiously.”(La Police dévoilée depuis la Restauration, 1829).

 

The same M. Froment reported a curious story involving Mr Tiger. The printer was sitting with one Sieur Henriquez one day, drinking wine at the corner of rue des Saints-Augustins, “talking about the articles they would insert in the next edition of the almanac”, when they saw some turkeys led by a butcher walking on the sidewalk. One of the turkeys was walking very proudly, and Mr Tiger laughed: “This General shall soon lose its life in the middle of its soldiers...” Henriquez, wrote Froment, “noted that this would be a very appropriate article for the almanac.” When the publication came out, a policeman read between the lines, and foretold “the assassination of a General and more than that, a provocation!” Mr Tiger was denounced, and summoned to the police station where a police officer heard him, smiled, and then “politely let him go.

 

Mr Tiger was a successful printer, but his books became a cliché. As soon as 1829, the Memoires de Vidocq made an ironical reference to them: “It became clear for the Magistrates that (this) incident (...) was an invention of my agents; so many fancies, more or less bizarre, have been built up around it; and the Plutarchs of the Pilier Littéraire won’t fail to acknowledge them as truthful, if the idea ever comes to the printer Tiger, or to his successor, to add a title to his collection of peddling books: The admirable yet true history, of facts and memorable, extraordinary or surprising adventures of the famous Vidocq; with the portrait of this famous informer.” Tiger’s books somewhat symbolize the impoverishment of printed materials at the time. Nonetheless, certain titles still attract book collectors. Those about Napoleon are very valuable to those who try to know how the emperor was perceived in his own time, for example. And others like the History of Saint-Domingue, or the portraits of the French buccaneers, have become very rare, and quite expensive. Even the almanacs have become quite rare. I have listed the titles of his catalogue that I’ve come across lately. Some are for sale on the Internet right now, and I’ve mentioned their price after the description. Here is a part of what the Pilier Littéraire left to the world. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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