Balzac and the Book

Around 1825, Balzac launched himself into the diverse business of publication, printing, and the creation of his personality. This attempt to alleviate the failure of his early literary texts was settled by a check: in 1828, he was 60000 francs in debt and he decided to interrupt his activities as a man of letters in compromise, according to his expression, to dedicate himself to writing. Balzac’s production as a printer created 3000 new pieces, some of which have become rarities, making leaflets for “anti glare pills for a long life” to Complete Works of Shakespeare in many volumes. The major part of these documents are varied, some are illustrated,and are represented in the section of the library dedicated to Balzac’s impressions.

Balzac’s short but intense experience in the publishing world can be found easily in his oeuvre, (notably in Lost Illusions)  one can see that the illustrated nature of his works reflects a fascination with material presentation usually only found in publishing. Balzac appreciated beautiful books and like many authors after him, made a connection between the works in the library and their artisans. Volumes of his personal collection were conserved at the Maison Balzac, some of which were annotated by his hand.

Balzac’s interest in the book object also figured into his original interest in typography and particularly by the choice he made, during the publication of Physiologie du mariage, to mix up his personalities into two pages that became illegible.