The Statistics of ‘Napoleonic France’
The Bibliothèque Martial-Lapeyre Fondation Napoléon Library has recently acquired two series of publications giving contemporary statistics for the France during the later Consulate and early Empire. These will serve as fundamental research tools for all those interested in the period.
The first is a 'universal' dictionary (described in the Notice as a Geographical dictionary) giving historical, geographical and commercial information for all the towns and villages, rivers and water courses, provinces and departments, the regions, lakes and seas in the Empire.
It was sold in installments by the bookseller Laporte, 1804 to 1805, and its full French title was Dictionnaire universel, géographique, statistique, historique et politique de la France, contenant sa description, sa population, sa minéralogie, son hydrographie, son commerce,… (Universal geographical, statistical, historical, and political dictionary of France, containing its description, population, mineralogy, hydrography and commerce…). The work was bound in a series of 5 volumes, in large in-octavo format.
The author was Louis-Marie Prudhomme (1752-1830), printer, bookseller, writer and journalist from the Revolution to the end of the Empire. In the first volume, there is a Notice in which he gives a description of how he compiled the work. To create his vast work, he claimed to have consulted administrators, geographers, academics and businessmen from all over France. He also noted that the difference administrations since 1789 had also happily collaborated with the publication. As for the geographical part, several geographers worked eight years compiling from maps of France, Belgium, the left bank of the Rhein, Switzerland, Savoy, Piedmont, the duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla and all French colonies. A later volume was to include the rest of the world. As for bibliography, Prudhomme père's major sources are listed on two sides at the beginning of volume one (about 100 titles). Prudhomme boasted that “all you have to do is compare this work with all the dictionaries on France and on the countries conquered or annexed to the French Republic to see that this work is unique and that it replaces all the rest.”
The work opens with a fascinating alphabetical table comparing monarchical France with Republican France, and then continues alphabetically naturally giving details even some of France's smallest settlements. Here for example is the entry for a village
AAST, v. [for village], (Basses-Pyrénées), arr.[ondissement] of Pau, canton of Mantaner, 24 km (5 ½ leagues) from Pau. There is a well in this place called the arquebusades well, because they say that it cures wounds. Pop.[ulation] 140. Post office Tarbes.
As for countries, the entry for Belgium begins as follows:
Belgium, or NETHERLANDS, [it contains 18 pages of description and an annotated table of the seventeen provinces and their subdivisions]
The second acquisition is also collection of statistics, this time, arranged in thematic order.
The work was published in 7 volumes under the title Statistique générale et particulière de la France et de ses colonies avec une nouvelle description topographique, physique, agricole, politique, industrielle et commerciale de cet état (General and detailed statistics for France and her colonies, with a new description of the topography, geography, agriculture, political administration, industry and commerce of that state). It was written by a committee of writers (most of whom employees at the Interior Ministry and so the direct source of the information in the book), but the two principal contributors (who both wrote prefaces) were P. E. Herbin and J. Peuchet.
Unlike the private venture by Pruhomme, this work was a semi-official production, and so it does not hawk its credentials in the same way. The work provides not only details regarding the population, agriculture, commerce, artisanal and manufacturing industry of France, it also offers details relative to everyday life: temperatures, farm and wild animals etc… As such, the work provides a snapshot of France at the time of the accession of Napoleon I.
Author: L. Prudhomme père
Title: Dictionnaire universel, géographique, statistique, historique et politique de la France, contenant sa description, sa population, sa minéralogie, son hydrographie, son commerce
Publisher And Date: Paris, for sale at Laporte, Libraire, rue de Savoie, n° 19, an XIII (1804-1805)
Physical Description: 5 vol. large in-8°
Title: Statistique générale et particulière de la France et de ses colonies avec une nouvelle description topographique, physique, agricole, politique, industrielle et commerciale de cet état (General and detailed statistics for France and her colonies, with a new description of the topography, geography, agriculture, political administration, industry and commerce of that state)
Publisher And Date: Paris, Chez F. Buisson, 1803
Physical Description: 7 volumes in 16° (missing tome 4)
Author: LHEUREUX-PRÉVOT, Chantal
Review: Revue du Souvenir Napoléonien