Books on Diverse Subjects from Librairie Michel Bouvier

- by Michael Stillman


Books on Diverse Subjects from Librairie Michel Bouvier

Librairie Michel Bouvier has issued their Catalogue 79. It is described as having “livres en divers genres,” or books on diverse subjects. The catalogue is written in French as are most of the books offered. The date range is also diverse, running from 1531-1979. Here are a few of the selections you will find in this catalogue.


It seems logical to begin with the oldest work in the catalogue. The title is Artificium De Applicatione Astrologiae ad Medicina (an article on the application of astrology to medicine). While that might sound like quack medicine today, this was in 1531 when astrology was viewed as comparable to science. Even the best scientists and physicians believed in its validity. The author was Georg Tannstetter, a man highly respected in his day. He was a physician, astronomer, astrologer, mathematician and cartographer, four of those subjects having validity that stood up through time. In those days, the learned had skills in numerous different subjects, but then again, knowledge was so much less that one could be expert in multiple fields. Tannstetter, also known as Collimitius, was a lecturer and instructor at the University of Vienna, first in mathematics along with astronomy and astrology, and later in the medical faculty. It was from there that he was appointed the personal physician to Emperor Maximilian I. Maximilian died six years later, but obviously through no fault of Tanstetter as later, Ferdinand I also appointed him as personal physician. Tanstetter died five years after in 1535. He was an expert at making astrological predictions based on the movements of planets, but had to calm the public when it was said he predicted the fall of Vienna to come in the next year. Item 1. Priced at €4,800 (euros, or approximately $5,128 in U.S. dollars).


This book has been described as the first methodical attempt at statistics in history, even if the method left much to be desired. The title is Le Secret des Thresor de France, découvert et departi en trois livres (the secret of the treasures of France, discovered and removed in three books), published in 1581. The named author was Nicolas Froumenteau, a pseudonym for a French Protestant, possibly Nicolas Barnaud. He set out to show the high costs to France of the Wars of Religion, which tore the nation apart during the second half of the 16th century. This book examines a 30-year period from 1550-1580. The damage was immense, with towns and villages destroyed, and an estimated 2-4 million people died. It was a battle between Catholics and Protestants in the primarily Catholic nation. It ended with the Edict of Nantes, which provided tolerance for Protestants for almost a century, only to then be repealed and many Protestants forced to flee. The author attempted to show statistically the cost to the national treasury along with political costs, people killed, women raped, and other damages. As such it is considered a first in statistical analysis, although his methods are considered very faulty. Item 3. €1,850 (US $1,977).


Other than Lafayette, there may be no other French national more closely associated with American history than Alexis de Toqueville. He came to America in 1831 to study America's prison system but stayed to research far more. He looked deeply into America's soul to understand what this still new country was all about. His book resulting from those studies is De la Démocratie en Amérique (democracy in America), four volumes published 1835-1840. His travels were not limited to the industrial states of the Northeast and Atlantic coast but included the then western frontier of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and the southern frontier of Alabama and Mississippi. From there he traveled up the Mississippi to the Great Lakes and visited Canada as well. De Toqueville came away most impressed by America's democratic traditions. Europe was ruled by kings and tyrants, the wealthy and powerful held all the cards leaving little chance for others to rise. In America, there were opportunities available to all. Nevertheless, he also saw the shortcomings, most notably with slavery and the treatment of Indians. He found it astonishing that the nation with the greatest amount of freedom would also be one of the last still having human bondage. Item 50. €30,000 (US $32,007)


Here is a book by another French citizen who promoted liberty and had a deep connection to America. His name was Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours. Long before he came to America, he published this book in 1763, De l’ Exportation et de l’Importation. It reflects his economic philosophy, known as physiocracy. It attributes wealth to agriculture and agricultural labor in particular. As such, he advocated free trade in agricultural goods, including free of tariffs. It was a liberal point of view in what was still a royalist society. He served King Louis XVI in various roles, including treaty negotiations, but with his liberal beliefs, he also came to support the French Revolution. However, he also defended the King from a mob in the early days of the Revolution, and as that revolution began to consume its own, he was sentenced to the guillotine. Fortunately, the guillotine got Robespierre first and he escaped execution. However, in riots a few years later, his house was attacked and he laid plans to move himself and his family to America, which he did in 1799. He had strong ties to important American figures, including Thomas Jefferson, but the reason his name is familiar in the U. S. is because of his son. Eleuthere Dupont de Nemours founded the huge chemical concern still a major company in America, E. I. Dupont de Nemours. Item 27. €3,800 (US $4,056)


Speaking of physiocracy, this is the book considered the “bible” of physiocracy, Physiocratie, ou constitution naturelle du gouvernement le plus avantageux au genre humain (Physiocracy or natural constitution of the most advantageous government of the human race) published 1767-1768. The author was Francois Quesnay and Dupont was one of his disciples. It was an economic and social system that attributed all wealth to agriculture and agricultural workers. It advocated freedom for people and for government not to interfere with or tax the output agriculture. The system is particularly notable for being the first attempt to provide an economic theory that explained the generation of wealth. If Quesnay is not that well-remembered, a man who admired him and used his ideas to provide his own explanation of the economy, is well-known today – Adam Smith. His Wealth of Nations followed a decade later. Item 29. €20,000 (US $21,333).


Michel Bouvier may be reached at +33 (0)1 46 34 64 53 or The website is