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Pierre Marteau, pseudonymous publisher

Related: 1600s literature - literature - banned books - clandestine publishing - pseudonymity - anonymity

Entertainment and politics: La France Galante (1696).


Pierre Marteau (French for Peter Hammer), publisher, allegedly residing in Cologne, is the 17th century label of a publishing house which – obvious to contemporaries – never existed.

Open Pseudonym and Political Joke, spreading in the 1660s
First French Marteau books appeared in the 1660s and were immediately identified as everything but published by a man called Pierre Marteau residing in Cologne. The name would have been that of a Frenchman who had opened his shop outside France yet close to the French border. Cologne's geographical location smelled of political freedom – he avoided France’s censorship by publishing outside France. Cologne promised access to the European market and the chance to get a good deal of the production smuggled back into France where it would sell on the black market for ten times the price.

French publishers, political dissidents, Huguenots who had suffered political prosecution under Louis XIV had opened their shops in Amsterdam and they would soon open new shops at The Hague, Rotterdam and Geneva. Cologne as the European safe haven remained a practical joke about the political situation: Cologne was catholic and Wittelsbach territory – a place with good diplomatic ties to France, and France was the country most German territories came to oppose in the upcoming conflicts - Cologne was an unlikely place.

The first Marteau books were French and most certainly printed in Amsterdam by publishers who would not risk to tell their names even whilst they resided outside France. Research has hinted at Amsterdam’s publisher Elzevier as the man who invented the imprint. It was at first just one among many erroneous and openly misleading imprints - an obvious pseudonym. Unlike the usual telling names like "Jacques le Sincere", Marteau sounded real. The detail which gave away his virtuality remained on the reader’s side – he would know that Cologne was the unlikely place for the Frenchman to go. "Hammer" made the joke a little bit more explicit: This man had courage and he was as real and as bold as a hammer.

Unlike other pseudonyms which appeared but once on the titlepages, Marteau made the career a good joke and an imprint without copy right could make. Numerous publishers began to sell books under the label. The remarkable thing about the joint venture was, that it was not coordinated and yet able to produce a distinct publisher’s identity. Only certain books attracted the imprint: French yet anti-French political satire, piracy editions, sexually explicit titles.

A second branch of Marteau books developed in the late 1680s when first German titles assumed the curious imprint. 1689 became a landmark year, the year right after the Glorious Revolution which had brought a Dutch regent onto the English throne. William of Orange, who had led the Dutch resistance against France in the 1670s became William III of England, Scotland and Wales. With France protecting the deposed Stuart Pretender, William was particularly keen to move both the Netherlands and Britain into an anti-French alliance on Germany’s behalf – Louis XIV had just attacked the palatine region; the Nine Years War began - the first phase of the Great Alliance, a period German intellectuals would soon praise as the beginning of a thoroughly European age: They had always admired France’s intellectuals and the latest Parisian fashions. All of a sudden they could openly embrace the enemy’s culture – if only they stressed the fact that France’s intellectuals were by now mostly critical of their country's political repression. French dissidents publish political journals, newspapers and books outside France on the international market, Germans bought them after the events of 1689 without a feeling of national disloyality. The new French authors propagated the very Europe which had come to Germany's assistance. The Marteau-label became a fashion with the peculiar production it offered. German publishers adopted it.

The German Marteau-production flourished with translations of French Marteau books and with original titles now appearing under the labels of Marteau, his Widow, his Son, and a growing line of virtual family members continuing the business. The peaks of the Marteau-production can be identified by the political events it covered. The beginning of the Great Alliance, its renewal at the beginning of the Spanish Succession War, its end in a Tory victory in London 1709/10 and the succeeding peace at Utrecht kept Marteau's authors busy. German and English intellectuals geban to feel annoyed of Europe the object of their fashion - an unreliable agent, yet Germany had still to trust that political entity if Hannover's King George was to continue his aspirations on the English throne. He crossed the Channel in 1714 and had to survive a phase of political turmoil which Marteau books had cover with all the old political bias. The Great Alliance gave way to the Quadruple Alliance of 1718-1720 in which Austria, France, Great Britain, and the United Provinces joined their forces to resolve a European conflict. Europe remained on the political agenda till 1721. Half of Europe’s wars were fought in the Great Northern War which had begun in 1700 and involved northern and eastern Europe. It ended in 1721 and brought the European period of 1689-1721 to a silent end.

Political books dominated Marteau's production. The peculiar Memoires pour rendre la paix perpetuelle en Europe appeared at one of Marteau's rivals in Cologne: Jaques le Pacifique published their first volume in 1712, Immanuel Kant would refere to the outline of a union of European States at the end of the century in his famous treatise on a permanent world peace. Politics could hardly be seperated from entertainment. Anne-Marguerite Petit DuNoyer published her political gossip under the ubiquitous label. The secrets of the diplomats negotiating at Utrecht were a best seller. Political novels like La Guerre d'Espagne (Cologne: Pierre Marteau, 1707) were extremely influential - the book mixed fact and fiction, sections of newspaper history with personal adventures of its heroe, a virtual James Bond in the serices of Louis XIV.

Satirical novels written by students in Halle, Leipzig and Jena claimed to be printed in Cologne. The piracy of the first German translation of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights appeared under the imprint. The mising of fact and fiction, information and entertainment, intellectual theft, scandal and only possible answer to the censorship laws flourishing all over Europe marked the Marteau production between 1660 and 1721.

European Publisher and German National Icon
A third phase of the Marteau production began after the European decades of 1689-1721 with the nationalistic turn of the 1720s and 1730s. Marteau’s German production became pro-German and potentially anti-French finding a peaks in the Years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

The 20th and 21st century saw only very few further Marteau-publications with the leftist Peter Hammer Verlag in Wuppertal. The old publishing house's modern web-presence at http://www.pierre-marteau.com remains a virtual enterprise led by 18th century historians who use the label as a well established brand name to publish texts of the period 1650-1750 and research dealing with that period. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre Marteau [Apr 2006]

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