A bibliographer gets political

Posted on 26th October 2022 by simonbeattie

Jules Gay (1807–1887) is remembered by book historians for publishing over 400 works from history which he thought ‘libre’ (i.e. uninhibited) in content, as well as his famous Bibliographie des principaux ouvrages relatifs à l’amour, aux femmes et au mariage (1861).  But this libertine publisher and bibliographer was also a committed socialist.  In London, in his twenties, he had met Robert Owen, publishing a translation of the latter’s Outline of the Rational System of Society.  It was through Owen that he also met the important French socialist feminist Désirée Véret.  They married in 1837 and had two sons, Jean and Owen.  Back in France, Gay worked on various early communist publications, defending ‘community of property, freedom in romantic relationships and the brotherhood of all members of the human family’, including the following, published in March 1849:

Le Communiste is the public statement of his deeply-held beliefs: ‘a profession of faith in which Gay affirms his materialism and his opposition to Christianity’ (Mathilde Bombart, ‘Libertinage, socialisme et bibliophilie: l’éditeur Jules Gay’, Dix-septième siècle, vol. 283, no. 2 (2019), p. 301, my translation).

This is one of the items I shall be exhibiting next month at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. For more details, please click here.

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