Home‎ > ‎Censored Works‎ > ‎

Censored Works (cont.)

Return to the listings of censored prints and photographs

Further information on the documentation of prints and photographs which were refused authorization for publication.

Prepared for the Image of France 1795-1880 -- at ARTFL.

ImofFr Home

The papers of the Bureau de l’Imprimerie at the Archives nationales de France contain four systematic listings of prints and photographs which were refused authorization for publication before 1870:

  1. Dépôt des estampes et planches gravées non autorisées, 1835-1847, F* 18(VI) 48, lfs. 2-43
  2. Enregistrement des planches non autorisées sans texte, 1859-1864, F* 18(VI) 133, lfs. 2-21
  3. Enregistrement des planches non autorisées avec texte, 1859-1866, in the same register, lfs. 42-46
  4. Estampes avec texte, non autorisées, 1865-66, F* 18(I) 2811 listings dating from 19 Dec. 1865 to 26 July 1866 -- the register is otherwise empty of content.  

The register F* 18(VI) 133 also contains a listing entitled "Enregistrement des estampes autorisées par ordre du conseiller" (lfs. 161-62), which has also been transcribed for the Image of France project and is available alongside the other four listings.

The official guide to the bureau’s papers (Etat sommaire des versements…, 1933) makes reference to a similar source in the register F* 18(VI) 49, but its true purpose is not evident.  It is an untitled, cursively written, chronological enumeration in nine columns beginning at no. 4256, 10 mars 1854, and extending to no. 12907, 30 avril 1860, with brief information of the title and publisher of prints and photographs which appear to have been subject to examination and reporting.  In many cases, the title information is much too brief to identify the work in question, which is not referenced to the dépôt légal or to any other registration procedure.  A column labeled “résultat du rapport” carries the indications “Réfusé” or “Bon”, the majority noted “Bon.”  Many of the examples noted “Réfusé” from the years 1859 and 1860 cannot be verified in the corresponding listings of the "Enregistrement des planches non autorisées sans texte" (1859-1864), F* 18(VI) 133, lfs. 2-21.  But many of these same listings appear to have been announced for publication shortly after the date of this listing in the journal La Bibliographie de la France. Until more is known of the function of the register, it would be inappropriate to annotate these listings in the Image of France.

After 1871, refusals of authorization were noted in two sources:  (1) a register of referrals, carefully copied in 3 volumes, entitled "Dessins Autorisés ou Réfusés," janvier 1875-juillet 1881, F* 18(I) 29-31 -- the care of its preparation and the lack of any reference to the procedures of legal deposit suggest a function to record the activities of censorship -- and (2) annotations on the stubs of the dépôt légal for prints and photographs  without texts: F* 18(VI) 78-84 and F* 18(VIbis) 2-5.  Because the stubs served as receipts for deposit, one is lead to suppose that works denied authorization were nonetheless accepted in deposit after 1871 and forwarded to the Bibliothèque nationale -- this may not have been the case in previous eras.  Moreover, these refused works were routinely publicized alongside and without distinction from works available for distribution in the listings of the Bibliographie de la France and are, thus, a part of the Image of France.  (An extraction of these listings is forthcoming at this website.)  

It is not yet clear how information about censored imagery was managed under the regime of the Bureau de l'Imprimerie et de la Librairie (1810-1881).  Since procedures and administrative priorities would have been subject to the fluctuation of political regimes, certainly, one should avoid generalizing from such an exemplary study as M.P. Driskell’s “Singing the Marseillaise in 1840: the case of Charlet’s censored prints,” Art Bulletin, 69 [1987], p. 604-625.  Before August 1830, for example, it is possible that the decision to refuse a print's authorization was not even recorded at all;  refused prints may have been simply denied the receipt of legal deposit.  Furthermore, the Bureau’s purview never encompassed the activities of the police and the Department of Justice, and the Bureau’s surviving archives have not disclosed evidence that it was routinely informed of their considerable accomplishments in the repression of images.  While it regularly initiated prosecutorial examination, there is reason to believe that the Bureau de l'Imprimerie et de la Librarie never received routine accounting of the results of its initiatives – whether in actual prosecutions or in convictions  – and that this information needed to be obtained case by case.

To complement the record of refused authorizations in considering the full extent of governmental censorship, therefore, let’s make note of several printed sources for studying the fate of imagery at court and in justice:  

  • The Compte général de l’Administration de la Justice criminelle en France, 1826-1851, contains annual statistics of  prosecutorial activities, including condemnations and acquittals, relating to crimes of the image.  A summary of these numbers is forthcoming at the Image of France.  
  • Drujon, Fernand.  Catalogue des ouvrages, écrits et dessins de toute nature poursuivis, supprimés ou condamnés depuis le 21 octobre 1814 jusqu'au 31 juillet 1877 ...  (Paris : Librairie ... Edourard Rouveyre, 1879) -- building on the work of two employees of the Bureau de l'Imprimerie, Maynard de Franc and Gaillard, commissaires inspecteurs de la librairie (published by Pillet fils in 1850), this publication seems to confirm our contention that the Bureau was left to its own devices in tracing the activities of the Dept. of Justice.
  • Legal reporting and journalism (not by any means exhaustive and oriented to questions of legal perplexity):  see our project, "Crimes of the Image: serendipidous references to French jurisprudence on prints and photography prior to 1881," in ongoing preparation at the Image of France.

Further information on these subjects may be found in  E. de Conihout, Recherches sur l’administration de la librairie, 1815-1848, thesis, Ecole nat. des Chartres, 1980; R. J. Goldstein's Censorship of Political caricature in nineteenth-century France (1989); George D. McKee, “La Surveillance officielle de l’Estampe entre 1810 et 1830,” Nouvelles de l’Estampe, no. 188 (2003), pp. 23-35 and no. 189 (2003), p. 69 at the Image of France website;  and my article "Managing the Image of France" also at the Image of France website.

April, 2008;
rev. March 2012


Return to the listings of refused prints