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Marc-Michel Rey

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Marc-Michel Rey (1720-1780) was a printer and bookseller who played a decisive role in the diffusion of Enlightenment ideas. He was born in Geneva of parents who came from Treschenu in the Diois region (now in the Drôme). He was an apprentice printer in Geneva, probably from 1733, working under the orders of Philippe Henri Hutter, then with Marc-Michel Bousquet, his godfather. He became a citizen of the town of Amsterdam on the 14th January 1746 and was admitted into the corporation of booksellers a fortnight later, on January 31st. In Bruiksloot (Amsterdam) on the 24th April 1747, he married Elisabeth (1723-1778), daughter of the renowned bookseller Jean-Frédéric Bernard (1680-1746), whose stock he took over at his death. Among his children, we will mention Marguerite Jeanne, born on the 10th June 1749, who was to marry the brother-in-law of Pierre Rousseau, Charles de Weissenbruch, director and chief editor of the Journal encyclopédique and a pillar of Société typographique de Bouillon, and her sister Suzanne, born on the 3rd May 1762, god-daughter of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Marc-Michel Rey was the protégé of Prosper Marchand, who often mentions him in his correspondence. His characteristic imprint (« marque aux abeilles ») was engraved by Jacob van der Schley (1715-1779), one of the best pupils of Bernard Picart, who went into exile with Marchand at The Hague.

Rey's first publications under his own name appeared in 1746, but Rey was above all a bookseller and his fortune was earned by the sale of books he had printed or which were distributed by his bookshop until his death in 1780. His correspondence, notes and accounts with the booksellers of the period, Duchesne, Dessaint et Saillant, Néaulme, Luzac, bear witness to the importance of his commercial network.

Presentation of our Project

The Marc-Michel Rey Project consists in the publication of the correspondence, the archives of the book-trade (accounts, sale-catalogues) and the family archives of this key-figure in the world of books. These documents were first collected by Jeroom Vercruysse, emerite professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels), who made a donation of them to the Institut d’histoire de la pensée classique (CNRS UMR-5037) in Saint-Étienne. It is now possible to view a critical inventory of all the papers, with three distinct entries: active and passive correspondence between 1744 and 1780, the archives of the book-trade, family archives. The inventory covers all the available documents, including lost letters (shown in grey). It is presented in chronological order by default, but can be organised according to any one of the headings. By means of the research-motor, many simple or combined searches are possible: filters by dates (a given year or over a given period), by recipient or by sender, by place, etc. and it is possible to combine these filters.

From the elements of the inventory, hyperlinks lead the user to a precise description of each document. Progressively, a critical edition of these documents (transcribed from the manuscripts and annotated by experts) will be made available on-line. The entire publication will make the public more familiar with the activities of an 18th century bookseller and with his vital role in the spread of Enlightenment ideas throughout Europe.

The catalogue of works covers all the publications bearing Marc-Michel Rey's imprint and provides a hyperlink to a digital version of the works when available. A number of other documents (family-tree, catalogues of book-stocks, illustrations) will give the user a more precise idea of the international network around the workshop of this Amsterdam printer and bookseller.