70 years ago Lucien Nachin published his book on General de Gaulle, entitled Charles de Gaulle : général de France. It was printed in Paris on August 25th 1944. A copy has just been added to the University Library’s collections, as part of the ever-expanding Liberation Collection, which has as one of its objectives the depiction of the French experience in print between 1944 and 1946.
This book appears at first glance to be completely unremarkable, but it in fact gives a vivid indication of French publishing activity of the period. It should be remembered that it was printed on the very same day that the German garrison occupying Paris surrendered. The colophon gives a sense of the secrecy and urgency with which the print run was prepared –Cet ouvrage, préparé et rédigé sous l’Occupation pour les Éditions Colbert, a été composé et tiré grace à l’organisation clandestine des Ateliers Brodard et Taupin.
The speed and difficulty surrounding the publication is described in the Note de l’éditeur on the title-page verso:
La rapidité avec laquelle ce livre a été composé, les conditions dans lesquelles il a été tiré, par les moyens de fortune, sans gaz et sans électricité (voir “l’achevé d’imprimer” à l’avant dernière page) ont entraîné un certain nombre d’erreurs typographiques dont nous nous excusons.
This is the eighth item so far in the Liberation Collection which boasts a belly-band. Whilst the title of Nachin’s book seems fairly bland, the wording on the belly-band, “L’homme du destin”, is more evocative and forward-looking. On the day that Paris is liberated, the book’s conclusion clearly and unambiguously identifies de Gaulle as the saviour of France – Cette œuvre de reconstitution à laquelle le pays unanime le convie, requiert caractère, intelligence et foi. Seul le général de Gaulle peut y presider … c’est qu’il est le lieu géométrique des aspirations françaises.
Nachin had been an associate of de Gaulle since 1923, and had introduced him, when still only a captain, to Colonel Émile Meyer, a military maverick whose ideas on the mechanization of modern armies, and the key role played by planes and armoured vehicles, were to be a source of inspiration to de Gaulle. Nachin’s book makes the personal connection very clear, in reproducing in facsimile part of a letter which de Gaulle had written to the author on January 15th 1927.
In cataloguing the Liberation Collection we attempt to give all possible provenance information about each item. Nachin presented this copy to a certain Paul Étienne, “ravi de le compter parmi les premiers lecteurs de ce livre”. Étienne signed and dated his copy on September 1st 1944, and also placed his ownership stamp, in which he is described as a “représentant de commerce” in Claye-Souilly, Seine-et-Marne.