God's Plagiarist: Being an Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbe Migne

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9780226059709: God's Plagiarist: Being an Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbe Migne

God's Plagiarist is an entertaining account of the abbe Jacques-Paul Migne, one of the great entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century. A priest in Orleans from 1824 to 1833, Migne then moved to Paris, where, in the space of a decade, he built one of the most extensive publishing ventures of all time.

How did he do it?

Migne harnessed a deep well of personal energy and a will of iron to the latest innovations in print technology, advertising, and merchandising. His assembly-line production and innovative marketing of the massive editions of the Church Fathers placed him at the forefront of France's new commerce. Characterized by the police as one of the great "schemers" of the century, this priest-entrepreneur put the most questionable of business practices in the service of his devotion to Catholicism.

Part detective novel, part morality tale, Bloch's narrative not only will interest scholars of nineteenth-century French intellectual history but will appeal also to general readers interested in the history of publishing or just a good historical yarn.

"An unforgettable, Daumier-like portrait, sharp and satirical, of this enterprising, austere and somewhat crazed merchandiser of sacred learning. . . . Bloch deserves great credit for the wit and style of his effort to explore the Pedantic Park of nineteenth-century learning, that island of monsters which scholars have found, as yet, no escape."—Anthony Grafton, New Republic

"Bloch is an exhilarating guide to the methods which made Migne the Napoleon of the Prospectus, a publicist of genius, Buffalo Bill and P.T. Barnum rolled into one."—David Coward, Times Literary Supplement

"Mercifully, Bloch's sense of humour has none of that condescending mock-bewilderment commonly applied to the foreign or ancient. . . . It enables Bloch to promote Migne as a forerunner of the department store and to place him on a continuum running from St. Paul to the Tupperware party: the quality of the merchandise is increasingly irrelevant, still more the nature of its contents."—Graham Robb, London Review of Books

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From the Back Cover:

God's Plagiarist is an entertaining account of the abbe Jacques-Paul Migne, one of the great entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century. Tracing Migne's life between 1840 and 1870, a period of robust economic growth in France, Howard Bloch reveals how the abbe Migne founded one of the most extensive publishing ventures of all time. Migne harnessed a will of iron and boundless personal energy to the latest innovations in print technology and marketing. Most famous for his massive 469-volume edition of the Church Fathers, Migne was the founder of the Ateliers catholiques of Paris and owned a total of ten newspapers during the course of his life. Bloch shows how closely Migne's activities in the newspaper world coincided with his editing and marketing of the Church Fathers. He sold the Fathers by means of advertising and merchandising ploys so creative and modern that Bloch is able to link Migne and his methods to the rise of wholesale exchange and large department stores in Paris. Migne's assembly-line production and innovative pyramid sales schemes placed him a the forefront of France's new commerce. And yet, Migne had a lengthy police record and was characterized by the police as one of the great "schemers" of the century. This priest-entrepreneur put the most questionable of business practices in the service of his devotion to Catholicism. He was run in for bribery, hounded because of irregularities in the licensing of his papers, and continually being sued for plagiarism. He employed priests who could not find work elsewhere and paid them such low wages that they were considered a constant source of political unrest. Migne trafficked illegally in masses and frequently reprinted editionsthat were not in the public domain. Despite his years under police scrutiny, he does, however, appear to have been a saintly schemer, whose activities on the margin of the law were motivated by a greater good. Part detective novel, part mortality tale, Bloch's narrative not only will interest scholars of nineteenth-century French intellectual history but will appeal also to general readers interested in the history of publishing or just a good historical yarn.

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