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Controversial American Tobacco Imports into Eighteenth-Century France

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540.     [TOBACCO]. Five imprints in one volume: [1] GOUDARD, Pierre Louis, comte de Louis Villeneuve. Traité complet de la culture, fabrication et vente du tabac. D’après les procédés pratiqués dans la Pannonie, la Virginie, le Danemarck, l’Ukraine, la Valetine, la Guyane françoise, et ci-devant dans la Guyenne. Auquel on a joint d’autres objets d’économie rurale, qui, réunis ou subsitués [sic] au Tabac, en rendent la culture encore plus utile aux Propriétaires, et très-interéssante pour l’État…. À Paris, Chez Buisson, Libraire-Imprimeur, rue Hautefeuille, no. 20. 1791. [i-v] vi-viii, [i] ii-xvi, [1] 2-456, [2] pp., 6 folded aquatint plates; [2] [LAVOISIER, Antoine Laurent]. Considérations sur le tabac, par un député suppléant. À Paris, 1790. [2], [1] 2-41 [1, blank] pp.; [3] GOUDARD, Pierre Louis, comte de Louis Villeneuve. Extrait du traité complet de la culture du tabac, ordonné & décrété par l’Assemblée Nationale, sur le rapport de M. Goudart, député de Lyon. À Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1791. [2], [1] 2-42 pp.[4] MOUSTIER, Eléonore François Élie de. Observations sur les différens rapports de la liberté ou de la prohibition de la culture du tabac…. Suivies d’une lettre à M. Necker, sur le commerce des États-Unis de l’Amérique septentrionale. À Paris: De l’Imprimerie de L. Potier de Lille, rue Favart, No. 5, 1790. [2], [1-3] 4-57 [1, blank] pp.; [5] DUVAUCEL. Réflexions importants sur l’impôt du tabac. À Paris: De l’imprimerie de Guerbart, Porte S. Jacques, et au Pont-neuf, no. 19., n.d. [1-3] 4-17 [1, blank] pp. 5 works in one volume, 8vo (20 x 13 cm), contemporary burgundy half leather over blue mottled boards, raised bands, spine gilt decorated and lettered, marbled endpapers, edges sprinkled; upper front corner wanting, moderate shelf wear, interior fine. Overall very good.

     First editions. 1st work: Echeverria/Wilkie, French Image of America 791/90; Martin & Walter 33608. 2nd work: Arents 1074. 3rd work: Martin & Walter 33609. 4th work: Echeverria/Wilkie, French Image of America 790/92; Martin & Walter 25456; Monaghan 1117. 5th work: Goldsmiths 14257.

     All these works discuss the controversial proposal to allow universal tobacco cultivation in France itself, thereby abolishing the government’s tobacco monopoly. Prior to this time, most tobacco was imported into the country from various foreign countries. The U.S. was a very important trading partner in this particular commodity. Villeneuve’s treatise, which reprints the proposed decrees to allow French tobacco cultivation, warmly endorses allowing the crop and is in fact something of a guide book to the French cultivator on how to succeed in the enterprise. The handsome plates show farming procedures, necessary buildings, equipment, etc. Plate 6 shows a model tobacco growing and processing operation. Part of the text discusses tobacco growing practices in the U.S.

     On the other hand, Moustier’s treatise, which discusses the Virginia tobacco trade, strongly disagrees with the proposition that France should allow tobacco cultivation and favors continued importation from the U.S. Duvaucel, a tax collector, remarks in his treatise that he has little idea what is going on with the proposed law and embodies a somewhat bemused citizen. He does remark that if tobacco cultivation is permitted in France, many poor farmers will probably abandon food crops to grow that instead, thereby leaving them possibly impoverished with a crop they cannot even eat. His arguments are reminiscent of modern ones that concern trying to wean poor, third-world farmers off high-profit crops such as opium poppies and have them grow less profitable foodstuffs instead.

     This volume contains a representative, significant sampling of the controversy that surrounded the proposal that French farmers should be allowed unrestricted rights to grow tobacco, which attracted both heat and light at the time. Villeneuve’s work is especially significant in that discussion. In the end, France briefly allowed universal tobacco cultivation, although Napoleon again restricted it a few years later. All these works are very rare.


Sold. Hammer: $300.00; Price Realized: $360.00

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