LOUIS DE MONTFORT CHEZ PIERRE MARTEAU
Amongst the Courtilz’ titles of the auction sale of Poitiers were some quite hard to find ones like Mémoires de Jean-Baptiste de la Fontaine, a pirate edition of Mémoires de Madame la Marquise de Fresne (printed cette année présente, the present year – a pirate edition of a forbidden book, what a « galimatia »!), Mémoires de Mr.L.C.D.R and Mémoires de Mr D’Artagnan (partly original). The appraisals were low, from 50 to 60 euros, no title went under 180 euros (the D’Artagnan went above 300). It was still a good deal as professional booksellers tend to ask 300 euros for a nice copy. On eBay.fr, only three Courtilz are currently available : Nouveaux Intérêts des Princes de l’Europe (chez Pierre Marteau, 1688) at 385 euros, Mémoires de la Marquise de Fresne (Amsterdam, 1714) at 300 euros and Annales de la Cour de Paris (chez Pierre Marteau, 1739) at 1,000 euros - the latter bearing the coat of arms of the Colbert family.
Not every book lover is looking for Courtilz’ works - but those who do, rate them, for their lively contents but also for the mythology surrounding the books and their author. Courtilz was walking on a tight rope, going to and from his property of Montargis in France and Holland, smuggling banned books for a living. Under the pseudonym of Louis de Monfort, he became an active figure of the forbidden literature of the time. “ He frequently intervened in favour of some colleagues harassed by the police of books, writes Jean Lombard in L’Aventure dans le roman à la fin du Grand Siècle (Congress of Amiens, 1987). (...) [In the early 1690’s], Courtilz had three different addresses in Paris, plus a PO box and a post house. He received lettres, sometimes under his own name, sometimes under the name of Monfort. But police were at work.”
According to this author, Courtilz was sent to prison a first time, and released soon after. He came back to Paris despite being banned by the authorities, arguing of medical obligations. “ Police established more and more precise reports about him, but he was protected by a Commissioner of police – we do not dare to risk any hypothesis regarding this protection.” The market for banned books was huge, and Holland had become a centre of counterfeit and forbidden books. A lot of booksellers would also legally print their books there, it was cheaper – but the readers did not trust those copies, often ill printed and full of mistakes, hence the often met mention “ D’après la copie de Paris” (According to the copy of Paris). Booksellers who did not want their business affiliation to some Protestants to be acknowledged, mentioned a fictive address or a fictive printer on the title page.
Courtilz sure did not want anyone to know what he was printing – nor where. So he published his book anonymously and most of the time “ chez Pierre Marteau”, the famous fictive Dutch printer. Pierre Marteau, alias Pierre du Marteau, alias Willhelm Marteau or Peter Hammer in Germany, or Pierre l’Enclume, has never existed. He was invented in 1660 by the powerful Elzevier dynasty of Dutch printers to safely put out a scandalous book in French. Marteau soon became very fashionable amongst printers – he made friends with “ people ” like Pierre Van Dyck (who put out Mr de la Rochefoucauld’s memoirs), Pierre Mortier, Simon l’Africain, Jacques le Curieux or Robert le Turcq – when he “ passed away ”, his heirs and his widow took over! His most famous publication is Les Lettres Persanes by Montesquieu (1721). Courtilz knew Pierre Marteau very well, he gave “ him ” several works to put out like Mémoires de Mr D’Artagnan (1700), Annales de la Cour et de Paris pour les années 1697 et 1698 (1701), Mémoires de messire Jean-Baptiste de la Fontaine (1699) or La vie de Gaspard de Coligny (no date) – all of these were to be found at the auction sale of Poitiers. Let us specify here that not all the Marteau printings come from the Elzevier’s press, far from that. The name was picked up by any printer, and thus made even more efficient in blurring the truth.