The Fronde, so-named after the French word for the slings that Parisian crowds used to smash the windows of the residences of Cardinal Mazarin and his supporters, was a series of civil wars that occurred in France between 1648 and 1653. Set against the backdrop of the Franco-Spanish War and the English Civil War, which toppled the British monarchy, the Fronde was a struggle for power between various groups intent on fighting against increased taxation and securing ancient rights and privileges they saw as their due.
During this period over six thousand pamphlets were produced. Much of the ire of the public, and in turn the pamphleteers, was directed at Cardinal Mazarin, the Chief Minister of France under the Regent, Anne of Austria, thus becoming known as Mazarinades. They took a number of forms including burlesque, prose, and satire, in varying degrees of quality and legality. Often humorous, witty, and exhibiting razor-sharp criticism of the establishment, these pamphlets offer a compelling insight into seventeenth-century culture and the concerns of the everyday citizen of France. These works represent a valuable documentary legacy of not only the Fronde and contemporary beliefs but also of the pamphlet culture of early modern Europe.
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library has recently catalogued 229 Mazarinades. These date exclusively from 1649, from the period known as the Parliamentary Fronde, which dramatically culminated in a blockade of the capital by royalist troops in an attempt to starve it into submission. Cataloguing all of these pamphlets concurrently offered a unique opportunity to investigate baroque typographical elements such as stylistic flourishes as well as the degradation, with time and excessive use, of the woodcut vignettes used to adorn them. It also offered a window onto the contemporary Parisian print trade, which was clustered around areas such as the Sorbonne and included a surprising number of female printers. This collection complements Fisher’s French Revolutionary Pamphlet Collection and offers an exciting new resource for scholars.
- Andrew Stewart