This year, a grant from the Friends of the British Library enabled the purchase of the complete set of a rare periodical published in 1793-94 during the French Revolution: 62 issues of the Journal de Marseille, along with 14 issues of its Supplement. It is an important addition to our holdings from the period of French Revolution, in particular the French Revolution tracts collection, comprising some 2,200 volumes.
The world of print changed dramatically during and after the French Revolution and the development of the Press reflected the vivacity of the political debates, contributing to the emergence of a public opinion. In the Libraryâs collections, the Journal de Marseille complements accounts of the revolutionary events which happened in Marseilles and the South of France, printed either in Paris or locally. It can be read alongside other periodicals, such as the Bulletin des Marseillois, the Journal du DĂ©partement du Var, the Journal de Lyon or the Journal de Bordeaux , as well as the Jacobin Journal des dĂ©bats de la SociĂ©tĂ© des Amis de la Constitution.
Marseilles was a key city during the French Revolution (it gave its name to the revolutionary national anthem). The Journal de Marseille et des dĂ©partemens mĂ©ridionaux shows how debates within the revolutionary movement added to tensions between royalists and republicans. It was published three times a week (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday) between October 1793 and February 1794 by the Club des Jacobins de Marseille, a local branch of this left-wing society which included members of rival political factions, the Girondins and the Mountain. The Mountain, led by Maximilien Robespierre, and supported by the most militant members of the Club des Jacobins de Marseilles, held radical views which led to extremism and the Reign of Terror in the years 1793-1794. They brutally expelled the Girondins from the National Convention in the summer of 1793, an event which fostered rebellions, especially in the South, where the Girondins, who promoted federalism, were very influential.
The Convention sent troops against the Marseilles insurgents: they took control of the city on 25 August 1793 and set up a Republican tribunal. The city was then deprived of its name and temporarily re-baptised âla Ville sans nomâ: from issue 52 onwards, the name of the periodical thus changes to Journal rĂ©publicain de la Commune sans nom et des dĂ©partemens mĂ©ridionaux.
The Journal was thus at the centre of burning political interests. Its initial editors were Alexandre Ricord (1770-1829) and SĂ©bastien Brumeaux de Lacroix (b. 1768). Ricord was general prosecutor of the Bouches-du-RhĂŽne department and between March 1792 and May 1793 had co-edited the Journal des dĂ©partemens mĂ©ridionaux et des dĂ©bats des amis de la Constitution de Marseille (whose publication was interrupted by the federalist movement in Marseilles) and issues 2 to 8 of the Journal de Marseille. Lacroix, âjacobin de Parisâ, was sent to Marseilles as a delegate appointed by the Convention, and took the sole editorship of the periodical from issue 9 onwards.
The Journal results from an initiative of the Convention delegates for southern French departments: it was designed to âremedy the vagaries of public opinion, its lack of instruction and enlightenmentâ and âpurge the public spirit from the venom distilled by enemies of the Motherland, coward federalistsâ, given the difficulties in disseminating Paris journals. It is conceived as the voice of âthe Nation, responsible for providing moral food for the people and enlightening it on its interests, rights and dutiesâ. It gives accounts of the Conventionâs meetings and discussions.
The political dimension of the Journal de Marseille is clear from the start, its Prospectus starting with the motto âLe salut du peuple est la suprĂȘme loiâ, and a declaration praising the âjournaux patriotiquesâ which since 1789 have enlightened the people and promoted Freedom, supporting the durable Rule of All rather than One. The periodical places itself against publications âpaid for by aristocrats, royalists and federalistsâ, accused of âdelaying the progress of human reasonâ. In ominous terms, the editor vows to âtrack traitors in their cellars and attics, to unmask the looters of the Nation, to denounce to the jury of the public opinion unfaithful administrators, conspiring generals, and delegates of the peopleâ, including âmembers of the Mountain, the Marsh or the Plain, federalists and their vile supporters.â Under the Reign of Terror, the Journal is openly conceived as the nexus of an âactive and general surveillance, a beacon to illuminate federalist conspiracies.â It wants to inspire the people with âthe strength so necessary in the fight between crime and virtue, freedom and slavery.â
From issue 44 onwards, âMittiĂ© filsâ succeeded Lacroix as editor of the Journal de Marseille. Both names still appear on the first page until issue 55, when MittiĂ©âs name remains. Jean-Corisandre MittiĂ©, who was sent by the ComitĂ© de Salut public to Marseilles in 1794, authored dramatic works like La prise de Toulon, which features at the end of our volume.
While the Prospectus and first eight issues of the Journal were published by Marc Aurel, âprinter of the peopleâs representatives sent to the southern departmentsâ, later issues were printed by Auguste Mossy, a printer who played an important role in Marseilles politics under the Revolution and the First Empire. Auguste came from a family of Marseilles printers: he worked, alongside his brother Jean (1758-1835), in their fatherâs printing shop before opening his own press.
The copy of the Journal de Marseille acquired by the British Library is kept in a modest but original brown leather binding with parchment corners and paste paper sides. It is stained, but traces of important use attest to the interest the collection has raised. Indeed, additional revolutionary tracts with a strong southern anchorage, including several pamphlets printed by the Mossy presses, are collected at the end of the volume â they will be the subject of another blog post!
IrĂšne Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator Romance collections
References / Further reading
Audrey C. Brodhurst, âThe French Revolution Collections in the British Libraryâ, British Library Journal (1976), 138-158.
Christophe Cave, Denis Reynaud, DanieÌle Willemart, 1793: lâesprit des journaux (Saint-EÌtienne, 1993). YA.1994.b.4058
RenĂ© GĂ©rard, Un Journal de province sous la RĂ©volution. Le âJournal de Marseilleâ (originally the âJournal de Provenceâ) de FerrĂ©ol Beaugeard, 1781-1797 (Paris, 1964). W.P.686/29.
Hubert C. Johnson, The Midi in revolution: a study of regional political diversity, 1789-1793 (Princeton, 1986). YH.1987.b.380
Michael L. Kennedy, The Jacobin Club of Marseilles, 1790-1794 (Ithaca, 1973). 73/13539
Des McTernan, âThe printed French Revolution collections in the British Libraryâ, FSLG Annual Review, 6 (2009-10), 31-44.