Friday, 10 April 2015

François-Jean Baudouin - Revolutionary printer

On 24th June 1789 the National Assembly nominated one of its number "le sieur Baudouin, député suppléant de Paris" to replace the royal printer Philippe-Denis Pierre who had refused to serve the rebel Third Estate. Baudouin served as official printer throughout the Revolutionary period. His collected edition of decrees and edicts of the Revolutionary government from 1789 to 1795 have recently been made accessible on the internet thanks to a project funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR RevLoi).

It is one of the little ironies of the Revolution that this Baudouin was the son of  Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, miniaturist and boudoir artist - and that his maternal grandfather was that ultimate epitome of Ancien Régime artistic decadence  François Boucher! The Revolution, comments the ANR researchers,  "transformed his illustrious genealogy into something of a burden".

François-Jean Boudouin was born on 18th April 1759 and baptised in Paris, in the parish of St.Eustache.  Despite the popularity of his work, Pierre-Antoine made a poor living. When their son was three his parents consented that he should go to live with his uncle by marriage, the printer Michel Lambert.  In April 1776 he became his uncle's apprentice. He obtained his licence as a bookseller in May 1777 and in 1782 was admitted to the Corporation of Printers and became his uncle's partner. From 1784 both names appear on their output.  In 1784 he married Marie-Madeleine-Aglaé Carouge (1764-1816). The marriage settlement occasioned a bitter dispute,which Lambert recorded in a long printed memorandum. Further legal conflicts ensured involving the natural son of Lambert. Nonetheless, on the printer's death in 1787  Baudouin inherited his printing business and moved into premises in the rue de la Harpe.  His clients on the eve of Revolution included the Archbishop of Tours, the monks of Citeaux order and the Suffragen bishops. 

Michel Lambert was a prominent printer of the Enlightenment.  He is best known as Voltaire's editor  -  he was even suspected by the police inspector  d'Hémery of being Voltaire's son. He also printed Bayle's Dictionnaire, the works of Rousseau and  Diderot, as well as the Journal des SavantsJournal Encyclopédique, and Journal Etranger. Although his position as a Syndic de la Librairie afforded him a measure of protection, he was frequently the subject of police harrassment; in March 1763 he was obliged to close down his presses and in 1764 he was briefly imprisoned in the Bastille.  In 1776 Lambert and the sixteen-year old Baudouin were associated with a short-lived Commission instigated by Turgot to investigate the finances of the Imprimerie royale; in all probability it was this experience which informed Baudouin's later conviction that the role of official printer was a public duty rather than a private perquisite.  Baudouin made little money from his association with the Revolutionary government : much of his official work was offered free or at cost.  In 1805 he finally went bankrupt; the surprise, say the ANR researchers, is not that his business failed, but that he avoided bankruptcy for so long.

Baudouin was from the start sympathetic towards the Revolution.  He was elected as a "substitute" deputy of the Third Estate for Paris, although never obliged to take his seat. The Constituent Assembly made its contract with him on June 24th 1789, three days after its formation; he was able to place a hundred roller presses at his premises in Versailles in the avenue Saint-Cloud at the disposal of the Revolutionary government.  When the Assembly moved to Paris Baudouin secured accommodation within the enclosure of the Tuileries. He was a member of the Société des amis de la Constitution  and president of the Comité révolutionnaire of the Tuileries Section.  In old age he dissociated himself from the more radical policies of the Revolution - there are legends that he came to the aid of the Archbishop of Paris in Versailles  and later sheltered a fleeing Swiss Guard.. However, the records of the Tuileries Section  show his assiduous attendance; he passed revolutionary scrutiny and was entrusted with such responsible tasks as the movement of suspects. After Thermidor he was arrested and imprisoned in Vincennes then the Luxembourg, though the exact circumstances are unclear. The researchers conclude that Baudouin's loyalty to the Revolution was never in doubt; he welcomed the reform it promised and continued to fulfil his duty as official printer through the various vicissitudes of regime.

Following his bankruptcy, after an unsuccessful interlude as director of the Imperial printing works in St. Petersburg, Baudouin was employed in various government adminstrative roles and died, in relative poverty, in 1835.


"François-Jean Baudouin Itinéraire (1759-1835)"  Décrets et Lois 1789-1795 : Collection Baudouin (ANR RevLoi)

"Baudouin" in Dictionnaire des imprimeurs, libraires et gens du livre à Paris (2007)

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