Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2015 Issue

Cayenne, The Dry Guillotine

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One of the most fearful periods in French history was probably the aftermath of the Revolution of 1789. Men had become political wolves, cutting each other’s throats over ideas or interests—enemy of the Republic one day, executioner the morrow, no one was safe. The Jacobins and Robespierre plunged the country into the Terror in 1793—that’s when blood had no time to dry on the restless guillotine—, and then the Directoire took over. In the middle of this new and bubbling Republic, some remained faithful to the King, and organized the resistance. When caught, they were shortened at the widow (or guillotine); others were deported to Cayenne, in French Guyana. In 1798, after a failed royalist coup, 193 of them were shipped to this cursed land. Three of them wrote their stories: Ange-Louis Pitou (Voyage à Cayenne, dans les deux Amériques et chez les Anthropophages—Paris, 1805), Jean-Jacques Aymé (Déportation et Naufrage de J.J Aymé, Ex-Législateur—Paris, 1800) and Jean-Pierre Ramel (Journal de l’Adjujant-Général RAMEL, l’un des déportés à la Guyane...—Londres, 1799). Let’s explore the triumvirate of the books of deportees.

 

 

PART ONE: Louis-Ange Pitou, Hell’s Angel.

 

The Bastille was taken on July 14th, 1789. Louis-Ange Pitou arrived in Paris three months later, infatuated with the revolutionary ideas of the time. He had no money, knew no one but he was young and had ambitions; as well as a good education. The story goes that he witnessed a terrible scene on his very first day in Paris: a crowd carrying the severed head of an innocent baker! Pitou was so horrified that he turned royalist. From that day on, he started to plot against the Republic, joining dozens of illegal newsletters, becoming a spy and an agitator. His pleasant manners soon earned him many acquaintances—he even met a grateful Queen Marie-Antoinette at one point. Now a National Guard, he started to attend many assemblies of Sans-Culottes (name of the revolutionaries) as an undercover agent. His brother, who was fighting with the Royalists in Vendée (West of France), needed arms. Thus, Pitou smuggled 300,000 francs worth of weapons and ammunitions during the summer of 1793! - a perilous activity, that soon cost the life of his brother. Pitou, who lived many lives in one, then became a chansonnier, or street singer; behind the church of Saint-Germain, he stood up on a table and sang songs of protest in front of a numerous and agitated audience; as a result, he became a jailbird. Everyday the water runs to the well, and after the failed royalist coup of Fructidor 18th, (September 4th, 1797*) the bottom dropped out; Pitou was sentenced to deportation to Cayenne alongside a few criminals, a handful of harmless non-juring priests and many royalist conspirators such as Jean-Pierre Ramel, Pichegru or Tronçon-Ducoutray. As a traitor and a conspirator, Louis-Ange Pitou deserved death; but he bribed a few officials, and saved his head—only to end up in hell, Cayenne (French Guyana).

 

 

Field of ambition, slaughterhouse of deportees

 

Since 1795, it had become fashionable to send political prisoners to Cayenne—it was a sure way to get rid of them for quite a long time, if not forever, while pretending to be magnanimous; you didn’t spill the blood of your enemies, did you? But as Tronçon-Ducoudray, who met his death in Cayenne, put it: French Guyana was nothing but a dry guillotine—and it remained active until the 1940s. “This land where we find ourselves,” writes Pitou, “has always been, since discovered, the field of ambition, the retreat of the outlaws, the graveyard of the Africans and the slaughterhouse of the Europeans banned from their country.” This is an extract from his famous Voyage à Cayenne... (1805). As the two other books aforementioned, it is considered as a travel book. The first edition came out in 1805, in two in-octavo volumes illustrated with two folding plates—the government allegedly seized a first manuscript of the relation before printing, circa 1800. Though described as “of little literary interest” by Philippe Descoux in an article about Louis-Ange Pitou published in Les Contemporains (1901), the book was successful. When reprinted in 1807, it wasn’t to be found At the author’s anymore, but At Pitou’s, Bookseller. Indeed, thanks to the benefits generated by the first edition, he had established himself as a bookseller in Paris, and started to print his old songs; but he soon went bankrupt. Nowadays, this is a sought-after book, which won’t go for less than a few hundreds of euros, though usually modestly bound—this tough economical period was poor in magnificent bindings, mainly for that type of books. Some of his digressions might be slightly boring, but there are not so many, and as soon as he comes back to his personal testimony, his book gets fascinating. Arrested in Paris, he was sent to the prison of Bicêtre: “I was thrown among the worst villains ever, who robbed me of everything, up to my shirt (...), telling me I’d better keep quiet if I didn’t want to get murdered that night. I shut up, but cried at will.” His book takes us into the belly of the beast; at one point, he’s given a shirt with a hole: “The shirt belonged to one of the poor victims murdered here two years before (the famous massacre of 1792, as he apparently mixes up his first encounters with the law and his final condemnation); the hole had been made by the sword that had been driven into his stomach!” Thrown into a cell full of lepers, he writes: “Some worms as thick as my finger fell from the living corpses above me, who were up to four on the same mattress.” Transferred to the Conciergerie, he stayed there long enough to catch a glimpse at a scary chest, “where they had stocked the hair of the victims put to death the previous day**.” And this was just the beginning!

 

* The revolutionists adopted a new calendar. Year 1 started on September 22nd, 1792. A worthy piece of information regarding old books, as many of the publishers of the time adopted the so-called “new style” on their title pages—hence the numerous mentions of An V de la République (Year 5 of the Republic), An III, etc.

 

** The executioner cut the hair of the victims so that the blade of the guillotine would meet as little resistance as possible. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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
  • <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

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