VILLIAUMÉ, [Claude]. ~ Guide des personnes qui désirent se placer, s’associer, se marier, vendre ou acquérir des fonds de commerce, prêter, emprunter, se procurer des commis, régisseurs, dames et demoiselles de compagnie, etc… [Paris: Tiger, n.d., c. 1812].
32mo (95 × 55 mm), pp. . Original salmon coloured wrappers, printed on inside covers. Old (blank) paper label to upper cover. Tiny French collector’s stamp (Roxane Debuisson) to title. An excellent copy.
First edition, known otherwise only from the Bibliothèque nationale copy, of this tiny promotional pamphlet for the notorious (yet successful) marriage agent in imperial Paris. It is a remarkable little testimony to post-revolutionary upheaval and its effects on social relations. Marriage-broker Villiaume is credited as the pioneer in France of advertising for partners in the petites affiches of newspapers. He had apparently hit upon the idea while imprisoned in the mental asylum for his part in an assassination attempt against Napoleon: he is reported to have made enquiries into the social situation of all the male inmates (which naturally at this date included numerous members of the old aristocracy) and then did the same among their female counterparts in the women’s asylum. On his release he founded the Agence Générale et Centrale pour Pais et l’Empire on the Rue Neuve-Saint-Eustache and began a Parisian craze for marriage brokering.
Evidently prepared to turn his hand to any promising enterprise this pocket guide advertises his services as a broker not just for marriages, but of various other situations and he takes the opportunity to defend himself against his many detractors and to advertise the sale of his neighbours’ second-hand furniture.
‘Founder of the most widely known matrimonial agency in postrevolutionary France, Claude Villiaume proved his talents as an enterprising ad man who exploited the uniquely commercial format of the Parisian Petites affiches to establish a virtual monopoly on the business under the Empire. Offering to serve as a conduit for men and women who pursued love anonymously in the Petites affiches, he skillfully marketed his “marriages by the classifieds” to lonely, uprooted individuals throughout imperial France. Villiaume pitched his unions as part of a new commercial and social world of movement in Paris. He sought to facilitate the circulation of capital and people by forging family alliances and love matches across multiple social and geographic borders. By linking marital choice and courtship to the vagaries of consumer capitalism, the agent transformed marriage into a form of commercial exchange associated with the new urban values of abundance, pleasure, and social mobility’ (abstract from Andrea Mansker, ‘Marriages by the Petites Affiches: Advertising Love, Marital Choice, and Commercial Matchmaking in Napoléon's Paris’, French Historical Studies (2018) 41 (1): 1-31).