Lyon dans les chaînes, or how to illustrate suffering beautifully



Lyon dans les chaînes (Liberation.a.60) is a wonderfully illustrated account of the occupation and liberation of the city of Lyon by journalist Pierre Scize. This large volume, held at Cambridge University Library as part of the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection, has an extensive number of coloured lithographs “printed under the surveillance of the artist”, Julien Pavil. The 625 copies of the work were produced between 15 December 1944 and 29 June 1945, which tells us a great deal about the effort and dedication the French were willing to put into book publishing after the Liberation.

Julien Pavil was an illustrator and poster artist who worked mainly in oils and watercolours, portraying scenes of French life in the 1920s and 1930s, including nightclubs, the circus, dancers and singers. His inclination to represent “merrier” topics is clearly indicated in the vivid illustrations he produced for Lyon dans les chaînes. There are several scenes of German and Milice officers being entertained in cafés and brothels while images of executions are often obscured amongst trees and flowers.

The item is also interesting because it an “hors commerce” copy,  specially printed for a named person (“Monsieur Louis Bourjaillat“). This is an exclusively French practice. We do not exactly know whom Monsieur Bourjaillat was, some research has lead us to believe he was a paper maker or supplier.

The University Library is lucky to have another copy of the work standing at Liberation.a.61a (the original) and also Liberation.a.61b which comprises a whole set of the unbound individual proof sheets showing only the lithographs and no printed text. We are not sure why the set was put together in a box, but this allows for an insight into the history of French book production and it also shows the richness of the Liberation Collection holdings.

Journalist Pierre Scize (a pseudonym for Michel Joseph Piot) worked for several magazines and newspapers such as L’Œuvre, Bonsoir, Paris-Journal, Candide, and Paris Soir and was an active member of the clandestine press for the Resistance during the Occupation. The book is prefaced by Édouard Herriot, the French Prime Minister and Mayor of Lyon who was sent to exile in Germany for opposing the Vichy regime.

Clara Panozzo

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