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Finding aid for the Vizetelly and Company letters and documents, 1785, 1838-1854
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative History
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Vizetelly and Company (1850-1855) letters and documents
    Date (inclusive): 1785-1854 (bulk 1838-1854)
    Number: 860111
    Creator/Collector: Vizetelly and Company (1850-1855)
    Physical Description: 108.0 items
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Collection comprising 103 letters sent to James Vizetelly and his company of printers and engravers by ca. 40 correspondents between 1838 and 1854. Most of the letters are in French, from French editors, and printers, and prominent publishers, including Béthune et Plon, Pagnerre Éditeur, Melchior Yvan, and L. Curmer. They reflect Vizetelly & Co.'s involvement in the growing demand for illustrated French and "exotic" literature.
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    Language: Collection material is in French

    Administrative History

    The Vizetelly London firm of printers, engravers and publishers was active under various names from ca. 1827-1890. Founded by James Henry Vizetelly with various associates, the firm was reorganized at his death in 1838, by the eldest son James, with his younger brother Henry as associate. In 1849 the firm went into liquidation, the brothers setting up separate businesses. James Vizetelly's firm remained active until 1855 under the name of Vizetelly and Company (at 135 Fleet Street). The name Vizetelly was successfully continued in the printing business of James's brother Henry. Henry Vizetelly's firm ended unfortunately in 1889 when the publication of several novels by the French writer Émile Zola brought Henry to the Criminal Court. He was condemned under the Obscene Libel Act to three months in prison.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Vizetelly and Company letters and documents, 1785, 1838-1854, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 860111.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired at auction in 1986.

    Custodial History

    Archive formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillips.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection comprises letters and some accounts sent to James Vizetelly by ca. 40 correspondents over 14 years, between February 1838 and January 1854. Most of the letters are from 1840-1842 (36 items) and 1851-1853 (47 items). There are no letters from the years 1848-1850. Except for three letters in English, all items are in French. The collection includes a draft of a letter by Vizetelly to the Parisian publisher Pagnerre from 1852. Also included are four unrelated documents: a public announcement signed Étienne Mehrel, asking for a loan for his invention; the transcription of a letter from 1641 by the French courtesan Marion de Lorme; the transcript of a judicial settlement of a French nobleman's estate from 1785; and a request from an English traveler in Paris looking for families offering room and board.
    Most of the letters are from business partners or collaborators. They reflect James Vizetelly's involvement in the growing demand for illustrated books from French and exotic literature, in genres ranging from fairy tales to romantic and historical novels, handbooks for fashionable hobbies, and treatises. Vizetelly's partners are among the leading Parisian publishers and editors, such as Béthune et Plon, Pagnerre Éditeur, Melchior Yvan, and Léon Curmer. A number of letters are from draftsmen and engravers about their work (always belated) or requesting payment (always delayed and often reduced). The correspondence communicates the tension involved in the creation of each book, often simultaneously in its original version in Paris and its translation in London. Also relevant for this period is a letter from a printing machine producer in Brussels about the new and faster machine he has invented and licensed that prints both text and engravings on both sides of a sheet of paper simultaneously.
    The collection, formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillips, comprises 108 items totaling 217 pages. The items were bound in two volumes at Sir Thomas Phillips' Middle Hill bindery, seemingly by size: vol. I in 8vo and vol. II in 4to. Three letters are detached and filed separately in a folder. All items have been numbered (1-108) to facilitate access, as there is no apparent order within the volumes. The information supplied by the cataloger is enclosed in square brackets.

    Arrangement note

    Organized in 2 bound volumes, described in the order within each volume.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Béthune, Max
    Callery, J.- M. (Joseph-Marie), 1810-1862
    Curmer, L. (Henri Léon), 1801-1870
    Français, Louis, 1814-1897
    Golovin, Ivan, b. 1816
    Hetzel, Pierre-Jules, 1814-1886
    Lamartine, Alphonse de, 1790-1869
    Masson, Victor
    Pagnerre, 1805-1854
    Philipon, Charles, 1800-1862
    Plon, Henri
    Vizetelly, Henry, 1820-1894
    Vizetelly, James Thomas, 1817-1897
    Yvan, Melchior, 1803-1873

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Vizetelly & Co. (1880-1889)
    Vizetelly and Company (1850-1855)
    Vizetelly Brothers & Co.

    Subjects - Topics

    Authors and publishers--England
    Authors and publishers--France
    Copyright--Great Britain
    Engraving--19th century
    Illustration of books--19th century
    Literary agents--France--Correspondence
    Printing ink industry--Great Britain
    Printing ink--Great Britain
    Printing machinery and supplies--Great Britain
    Printing--Great Britain--History
    Publishers and publishing--France
    Publishers and publishing--Great Britain
    Wood-engraving, French

    Genres and Forms of Material



    Callery, J.- M. (Joseph-Marie), 1810-1862
    Curmer, L. (Henri Léon), 1801-1870
    Français, Louis, 1814-1897
    Imprimerie de Béthune & Plon
    Pagnerre (Firm)
    Pagnerre, 1805-1854
    Plon, Henri
    Vizetelly Brothers & Co.
    Vizetelly, James Thomas, 1817-1897
    Yvan, Melchior, 1803-1873