Antwerp [i.e. Paris]. 1776-1779. Ten complete volumes (of fifteen), plus a significant portion of the eleventh. Complete collation available upon request. Eleven volumes bound in contemporary mottled calf, spines gilt, leather labels, edges painted red; plus seventeen individual issues, most in original wrappers. Bound volumes: Corners bumped, edges slightly worn. Contemporary ownership inscriptions on titlepages or initial leaves. An occasional fox mark. Overall, very good. Item #WRCAM46659B
A monumental and fundamentally important set of documents tracing the early course of the American Revolution and events on the North American continent. AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE contains among the earliest, and in some cases the first, European printings of many of the most basic documents in American history, including the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine's COMMON SENSE, the Articles of Confederation, and several state constitutions. The series was produced by the French government in order to inform the French public of the origins and course of the American Revolution, and to build and justify support among the French aristocracy and bureaucracy for an eventual Franco-American alliance. With the crucial editorial assistance of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the AFFAIRES... helped accomplish this goal, as well as providing the French people with their first taste of American democratic philosophy.
AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE, though bearing an Antwerp imprint, was actually produced by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was available from the French bookseller, Pissot. The false imprint and the anonymity maintained by the editor served to hide the fact that it was issued by the French government and helped maintain a facade of impartiality. The first issue appeared on May 4, 1776, and publication proceeded through October 1779. The series was edited by Edmé-Jacques Genêt, chief interpreter to the French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, the Comte de Vergennes. Genêt was the father of Edmund Charles "Citizen" Genêt, who later caused so much discord in French-American relations during his tenure as minister plenipotentiary to the United States in the 1790s. Edmé-Jacques Genêt produced a similar journal during the French and Indian War, using correspondents in Britain, Spain, and the German states to gather news and information on events in the various fields of battle. He called upon some of those same sources, and cultivated American contacts as well, for AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE.
Chief among Genêt's American sources was Benjamin Franklin, who arrived in Paris on Dec. 21, 1776 as one of the American representatives seeking an alliance with France. Among the first documents Franklin provided to Genêt was a copy of John Dickinson's draft of the Articles of Confederation. In the United States these were still secret documents which had only circulated in committee in the Continental Congress. The Articles were translated in full and appear in the Dec. 27, 1776 edition of the AFFAIRES..., constituting "the first unrestricted publication in any language of the Articles of Confederation" (Echeverria). Franklin also provided Genêt with American newspapers, copies of his own correspondence, and old essays, all documenting the development of the rift between Great Britain and her American colonies in a light very favorable to the colonists. Franklin also contributed an original essay, COMPARISON OF GREAT BRITAIN AND AMERICA AS TO CREDIT, IN 1777, to Genêt's journal (printed in the Oct. 18, 1777 "Banker's Letter"). John Adams arrived in Paris in the spring of 1778, and was also very active in supplying Genêt with newspapers, copies of his own letters, and rebuttals to British propaganda. Laura Anne Bédard, a recent student of AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE, notes that the journal took a markedly pro-American tinge once Franklin began his contributions. This emphasis carried through the negotiation of the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, all the way to the end of the journal's publication in October 1779.
With such well placed American contacts, it is not surprising that AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE contains some of the earliest appearances of many of the basic works of the Revolutionary era. The number of important publications contained in the journal is nevertheless remarkable. The publication of John Dickinson's draft of the Articles of Confederation has already been mentioned. The Declaration of Independence appears in the Aug. 16, 1776 issue of the AFFAIRES (in the "Banker's Letter") and is the first European printing of that landmark document, preceding other French and British printings by one to two weeks. Durand Echeverria mistakenly identifies a printing of the Declaration in the Aug. 30, 1776 edition of the GAZETTE DE LEYDE as the first French translation, missing its appearance a full two weeks earlier in the AFFAIRES. Thomas Paine's incredibly influential and wildly popular COMMON SENSE was the first purely political essay published in the AFFAIRES, appearing in the issue of June 15, 1776. It does not appear in a word-for-word translation, but Genêt reprinted the majority of Paine's text, summarizing the sections he excluded. Gimbel notes only one other French language printing of COMMON SENSE in 1776, bearing a Rotterdam imprint. This is almost certainly its first continental appearance. Genêt also printed several state constitutions as soon as they became available, usually supplied by Franklin and translated by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld d'Enville. The AFFAIRES includes the first European printings of the constitutions of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Echeverria notes that the two earliest separate French publications printing American constitutions, appearing in 1778, were word-for-word copies, including footnotes, from AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE. In the Dec. 27, 1776 issue Genêt reproduced the full text of the Articles of Confederation. Echeverria accurately calls the AFFAIRES one of the two "most important publications of American political documents in France during the American war."
Along with these vital documents, AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE is filled with thousands of pages of fascinating documents tracing the development of the conflict between Great Britain and her American colonies, and following the actual course of the war. Most issues contain two sections, a "Journal" devoted to the latest news from abroad, and a section of commentary in the form of a "Letter from a London Banker," actually written by Genêt himself. The Journal sections contain excerpts from newspapers, periodicals, and other reports on military campaigns (including letters from British, German, and American soldiers), debates in the British parliament, and accounts of British finances. Included are discussions of British troop strength and reports from numerous British government ministers and parliamentarians including Pitt, Grenville, Burke, Wilkes, and North, among several others. Many of the documents are included in order to gauge British political and popular support for operations in North America, and to discern British financial strength. The contents cover the full range of affairs in North America, from naval strength to Hessian activities, battlefield reports, Indian loyalties, and Canadian affairs. The information is presented in an impartial and balanced manner, with little editorial comment. The pro-American bias comes through, however, in the commentary section in which Genêt, in the guise of the "British banker," transmits opinions on the history and course of the conflict. This section includes political documents and essays, expanded by Genêt's editorial notes. It is in the "Banker's Letters" that COMMON SENSE is excerpted and the Declaration of Independence printed. It also marks the first French appearance of British dissenter Richard Price's important work, OBSERVATIONS ON THE NATURE OF CIVIL LIBERTY, in which he supports American independence.
AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE was issued intermittently in parts. It can be bound in a varying number of volumes, and bibliographer Paul L. Ford calls it "one of the most intricate and puzzling studies in collation." Howes notes that sets are made up of "twenty-four parts divided into fifteen volumes," but are usually bound in seventeen volumes. Sabin concurs on twenty-four parts, while LeClerc catalogued an incomplete set of only thirteen parts. Ford throws out the notion of "parts" entirely, giving a complete collation in fifteen volumes. Obadiah Rich asserts that the series was "an imitation or translation of Almon's REMEMBRANCER," but Sabin and Howes both correctly refute this utterly incorrect notion. Howes calls it a "counterpart" to the REMEMBRANCER, while Sabin notes that it is "quite different" from Almon's work. As we have noted, it is a wholly original collection of documents, assembled to provide close reports on the progress of the American Revolution and to pave the way toward the French alliance with the rebellious Americans.
The present set is a significant run of AFFAIRES DE L'ANGLETERRE ET DE L'AMÉRIQUE, containing some seventy-five percent of the entire text. It lacks three volumes late in the series, identified as the last three volumes in Ford's collation, as well as portions of the eleventh and twelfth volumes. Several of the indexes are also lacking. As Bédard notes, however, 1779 constituted the waning days of the AFFAIRES, and most of the information in the final volumes is made up of accounts of French and Spanish military affairs, and they contain less in the way of significant American documentary material.
This is only the fourth copy that we have seen of this extremely rare set. There are complete sets at the University of Virginia, the Library of Congress, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the John Carter Brown Library, and Yale. Paul Ford, in his 1889 article on the work, located incomplete sets at Harvard, Massachusetts Historical Society, the Department of State, New York State Library, Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts (which has John Adams' incomplete set), and one in a private collection. Many of these are no longer at these locations (for example, the New York State Library set was probably destroyed in their 1911 fire, the State Department Library has been dispersed, etc.). "So little known, that no satisfactory account of it exists" - JCB. "Essential for the Revolutionary period" - Sabin. "Of singular importance for the history of the period covered; but, owing to its rarity, and to the extreme bibliographical confusion in its parts and volumes, it has been singularly neglected as historical material" - Larned. "Collection des plus importantes pour la periode de la revolution des Etats-Unis" - LeClerc.
A rare and fundamentally important collection of documents on the early years of the American Revolution, in many cases containing the earliest European printings of several iconic works of American history, in a beautifully bound set, with an additional seventeen sections in wrappers as issued. HOWES A85, "b." LeCLERC 2464. SABIN 491. JCB 1(III):2185. FORD, FRANKLIN BIBLIOGRAPHY 326. LARNED 1210. Laura Anne Bédard, Les Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique: A FRENCH JOURNAL COVERING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION FROM FRANCE (Unpublished Master's Thesis, 1986), especially chapters 2 and 3 and appendices. Durand Echeverria, "French Publications of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitutions, 1776-1783" in PAPERS OF THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, Vol. 47, pp.313-38. Paul Leicester Ford, "Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique" in PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY, 1889, pp.222-26 has the clearest collation. Will Slauter, "Constructive Misreadings: Adams, Turgot, and the American State Constitutions" in PAPERS OF THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, Vol. 105, No. 1, pp.33-68. REESE, REVOLUTIONARY HUNDRED 47.