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18 jul 2022

Global online launch of the French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE-2.0) database

For those who do not know this award-winning digital project, or want an update, there are details at the end of this message. For everyone else, here are the logon details:

Monday 18th, 6pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (= 1AM PDT/ 4AM EDT/ 10AM CEST)


Password: 110354 L

This event is an open session of the George Rudé Seminar, 2022.


Project Leader Professor Simon Burrows, Western Sydney.

Reverend Professor Russell Goulbourne, Dean of Arts at University of Melbourne, member of the project steering committee 2008-2012 and of its International Advisory Committee

Emeritus Professor Martyn Lyons, University of NSW, a leading scholar in the history of the book and of reading

Professor Alicia Montoya, Radboud University, whose own ERC-funded project on enlightenment private libraries, MEDIATE, has been collaborating closely with FBTEE since 2015

Associate-Professor Alison Downham-Moore, celebrated historian of France and of medicine, and Western Sydney University’s Pro-Dean for Research in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts.


The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe’ (FBTEE) database project, funded by the British AHRC, Western Sydney University, and the Australian Research Council, is one of the more venerable Digital Humanities initiatives.

The launch of the FBTEE-2.0 (MPCE) database provides an opportunity to reflect on the findings and significance of the project, and to showcase how this new FBTEE resource can be explored, as well as to reveal some important future directions.

Its original incarnation (FBTEE-1.0), which tracked the sales and purchases of books across Europe by a large, iconic and supposedly representative Swiss Enlightenment book wholesaler-publisher, the Société typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), was published in June 2012, to immediate international acclaim.

Robert Darnton, the foremost authority on the STN and Enlightenment Book Trade, described it as ‘a prodigious achievement and a joy to use’. Jeremy Caradonna said it has helped to bring the ‘historical profession into the age of interactive digital technologies and GIS technology’ and Jeremy D. Popkin suggested it was an ‘indispensable resource’ for anyone working in the field of French Enlightenment studies. In 2017, FBTEE won the BSECS Digital Resource Prize.

However, the main research findings from FBTEE-1.0 undermined many of the project’s starting assumptions, above all that the STN might be considered a representative enlightenment publishing house. In the project’s second stage, since 2013, it has therefore sought to ingest information from other key sources which document the French book trade in the 20 years before the French Revolution, to enable comparisons with the STN sources.

Additional datasets include bankruptcy and deceased stock sales records for major Parisian bookdealers; the records of confiscations at Parisian customs inspections; inventories of pirated books stamped and thus legalised under an amnesty between 1778 and 1781; print-runs of editions authorised under the permission simple licence between 1777 and the revolution; and an inventory of books impounded in the Bastille. This combination of documents allows us to conduct an ‘industrial scale survey’ of the French publishing and bookselling industry to gain unparalleled insights into the intellectual and cultural life of old regime France, the policing and prohibition of books, and the effectiveness of the French government’s censorship policies.

This session will discuss the impact of FBTEE nad provide a preview of the new FBTEE-2.0 database resource.


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