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La Figure du bibliomane: Histoire du livre et strategie litteraire au XIXe siecle.

Daniel Desormeaux. La Figure du bibliomane: Histoire du livre et strategie litteraire au XIXe siecle. Paris: Librairie Nizet, 2002. 251 pp.

Meticulously weaving his examination of the collector within the history of the book, the history of print culture and the history of ideas, in La Figure du bibliomane, Daniel Desormeaux convincingly highlights the distinguishing traits, and the literary significance of various strains of nineteenth-century bibliomania (literary, historical and the quasi-inevitable conflation of the two). Part 1, "Les Marginalites du bibliomane," details the ever-changing representations of the curious bibliomaniac, offering a substantial portrait of an emblematic yet marginalized archetype who will be transformed and rehabilitated in the nineteenth-century imagination. Desormeaux skillfully leads the reader from the Middle Ages through to the French Revolution, the latter proving monumental for the history of the book as the private collections of the Church and noble emigrants were nationalized through a series of decrees. Covering an impressive temporal field, the presentation is seamless, the examples incisively chosen and the detail, while copious, masterfully avoids excess. This section, which ends with a predictable peripeteia (as the historical marginalization of the bibliomaniac turns into valorization) is perfectly chiseled to prepare a nineteenth-century reconfiguration of the book itself and, progres-sively, the manuscript as "monument."

While it might seem that the Revolutionary (Gregorian) position lent itself to the denigration of such figures, as Desormeaux convincingly argues, the paradoxical result of a politic of "cultural emancipation of the people" (74) and an ideology stressing the utility of the book rather than it fetishization ultimately served the interests of the bibliophile, the bibliographer and the bibliomaniac. Part 2, "Le Bibliomane et ses institutions," therefore opens with a discussion of the rare book and its speculative pursuit via various genres of bibliophilia and bibliomania. Probing readings that are a must for any study of nineteenth-century novelistic production focus on the very particular relationships of writers to their manuscripts, the book market, posterity, the collectible, and to the act of writing. Five illustration-rich chapters devoted to the individual trajectories of Flaubert, Stendhal, Nerval, d'Aurevilly and France posit manifestations of bibliophilia and bibliomania, successfully reinforcing Desormeaux's hypothesis that the once marginalized figure of the bibliomaniac is, for the nineteenth-century imagination as well as its novelistic fabrications and practices, far from marginal.

Gayle Zachmann

University of Florida

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Title Annotation:Book Reviews
Author:Zachmann, Gayle
Publication:French Forum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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