A Literary Tour de France
Middlemen and Smugglers


Main street in Les Verrières, the last town on the Swiss side of the border leading to Pontarlier in France.  Smugglers often set off from here, taking obscure trails across the mountains in order to avoid the border patrols.

Smuggling was an important industry in eighteenth-century Europe, and it especially flourished in the valleys that led through the Jura Mountains separating France from Switzerland.  Smugglers conveyed books from the STN to various locations in France by using many techniques.  They often hid pirated and illegal books in shipments of legal works and employed middlemen like Jacques Revol to get them past inspection in the guild offices (chambres syndicales) of distribution centers such as Lyon.  When the STN shipped the most illegal and most dangerous works, it sometimes employed “insurers” like Ignace Faivre in Pontarlier and Guillon l’aîné in Clairvaux, who organized teams of porters to carry the books across the border on their backs, following obscure mountain trails.  If caught, the porters might be branded with the letter “G” for galérien and condemned to the galleys.  The “insurer” would then reimburse the STN for the value of the merchandise.

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