|Chrétien-Guillaume de Malesherbes was director of the book trade and chief of the royal censors during the tumultuous formative period of the esprit philsophique in eighteenth-century France. As such, no single bureaucrat wielded more personal influence on the professional careers of authors and booksellers, on the progress of letters or the dissemination of knowledge in pre-revolutionary France, than this enlightened aristocrat whom Voltaire dubbed the “ministre de la littérature.”
In this study, Professor Shaw has concentrated on the means and manner by which Malesherbes interpreted the loose and complex legal codes governing publishing, and threaded his way among conflicting pressures from the trade, the court, and the intellectual community.
While not a biography or definitive history, this book nevertheless provides valuable source material on a fascinating era. Based upon detailed research in the documents of the Collection Anisson of the Bibliothéque Nationale, the book contains extensive transcriptions of Malesherbes’ reports and letters, many of them hitherto unpublished.
Edward P. Shaw is a native of Massachusetts and received his academic degrees from Harvard. He taught at the University of Illinois and, after World War II service with the AAF, at Miami University in Ohio. Since 1947 he has been at the State University of New York at Albany, as Professor of French, Chairman of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and now as Chairman of the Division of Humanities.
Dr. Shaw’s published works include Jacques Cazotte (1719–1792), The Case of the Abbé de Moncrif, and Francois-Augustin Paradie de Moncrif (1687–1770), as well as three books of readings in French and numerous articles in the professional journals. He has spent several periods conducting research in Europe, including one under a traveling scholarship of the French Government and one as a Harvard Sheldon Traveling Fellow, and he has been honored as a Chevalier of the Order of Academic Palms of France.