Commercial communication in the early 19th century

ART DE LA CORRESPONDANCE COMMERCIALE, ou modèles de lettres pour toutes sortes d’opérations mercantiles, A l’usage des personnes qui se destinent au commerce. A Bordeaux, Chez P. Beaume, Imprimeur-Libraire, Allées de Tourny, no. 6. [with parallel Spanish title] Arte de la correspondencia comercial, o modelos de cartas para toda especie de operaciones mercantiles, para el uso de los que se destinan al comercio. Burdeos, En la Imprenta de D. Pedro Beaume...

1814. 12mo, pp. 253; printed in parallel text in French and Spanish; with woodcut printer’s device on both title-pages; occasional light spotting and foxing, but otherwise clean and crisp, with discrete old paper repair to lower corner of p. 192; with contemporary ownership signature of ‘Fredrich Habicht, 1821’ on front free endpaper; in contemporary half-calf over blue marbled boards, with blue sprinkled edges, spine in compartments ruled in gilt, with yellow paper label lettered in gilt, (label a little chipped), joints and spine slightly rubbed, some scuffing with minor loss of paper on upper cover, extremities lightly bumped and worn; an appealing copy. First edition of this translation, and an uncommon bilingual guide to the art of commercial correspondence, with the numerous examples and templates given printed in both Spanish and French on facing pages.
It is our understanding that the guide is a translation and revision of a work first issued in French and English as The Commercial Secretary, or a collection of commercial letters, invoices, accounts of sale, bills of lading and exchange etc, for the use of young gentlemen bred up to the trade/Le secrétaire du commerce ou recueil de lettres de commerce, published in Paris by Saintin in 1805, and which was illustrated with a number of numismatic plates. It appears to have gone through two editions in 1805, with a Bordeaux printing by Beaume as here in 1807 (not illustrated), and then an Italian/English edition printed by Gamba in Livorno in the same year as this French/Spanish iteration. The present translation follows closely that of the 1805 original, though has been revised and updated. It was further published in 1822 and 1824. It is perhaps no coincidence, that the publication of both this French and Spanish edition, and that of the one in English and Italian, appeared in the year which saw the end of the War of the Sixth Coalition and the defeat and deposition of Napoleon, with hopes, no doubt, of more stable and conducive trading conditions across Europe.
This scarce works provides an insight into the flourishing colonial trade of the early 19th century. Whilst the various examples make no mention of the slave trade itself, the majority of the sample letters, invoices, bills of lading discuss the sale, purchase, and movement of raw and refined sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton, cloth etc, between the East Indies (Java) and Caribbean (St Domingo) and the European cities of London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Rostock and Cadiz. Several merchants, insurers, agents, and ship-owners are mentioned throughout the examples, though we have been unable to establish whether they are fictional or existing companies. Nevertheless, there are frequent references to Johann Wolff of Bremen, Johann Baller of Minden, James Phillips & Company of London, Peter Smith and Thomas Simpson of London, and Jan Veerding of Amsterdam. The samples also highlight the perils of global trade at the time, with several mentions to the ‘political’ situations, as well as to concerns about French privateers, ‘la crainte des corsaires français est tellesur cette place’ (lettre XXII, p. 61) which could lead to price rises.

Bibliography: See Goldsmiths'-Kress numbers 19069.2 for the 1805 English edition; Goldsmiths'-Kress library of economic literature ; no. 20978.1; all editions appear scarce, with the present title located at the New York Public Library, the University of London and the BnF.

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