Tuesday, 20 March 2012

From France to Brazil: The story of an exercise school book

The objects that pop up in the shop have their own stories and part of the pleasure of offering them for sale is to research their past and how they came to be.

When this pink exercise book fell into my hands the name printed on top was familiar: H. Garnier was one of two owners of the famous Parisian publishing house which flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries (eventually sold to Flammarion in 1983). The Garnier brothers, Auguste and Hippolyte, founded "Garnier Frères" or Librairie Garnier in 1833 in Paris and of their celebrated editions was  Classiques Garnier. However, on the pink exercise book Paris is not mentioned: it reads "Livraria H. Garnier, Rio de Janeiro."

A little research reveals that the Brazilian publishing house was founded in mid-19th century by Jean-Baptiste Garnier, the third brother, who after working for Auguste and Hippolyte until 1844 decided to seek his own fortunes in Latin America. Indeed the Brazilian branch of Garnier has published some 655 Brazilian authors. Apparently the editing was done in Rio de Janeiro and the printing in Paris and London. Jean Baptiste died in 1893 and the business passed on to Hippolyte. It must have been around this time (and definitely before 1934 when the Livraria closed down) that this pink exercise book was issued.

The front cover features the names of the Brazilian states in a decorative frame, while at the back is the biography of José Bonifacio de Andrada, the "patriarch of the Brazilian Independence." The book is sewn bound and has 20 pages of wonderfully aged handwriting paper. 

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