(Graslin, Jean Joseph Louis)
Réflexions d’un citoyen, sur la construction d’une salle de spectacle à Nantes.
(No imprint, but Nantes, c.1783).
4to. 28pp. Sewn as issued in contemporary wrappers. The front cover carries the publication’s title in ink in a contemporary hand, and also the ink inscription “Monsieur de Kervegan(t ?) Premier Juge Consul” in another handwriting of the same date. A later ink inscription on the front cover adds “avec notes manuscrites de Mr.Kervegan”, and this refers to a number of pencil notes in the publication’s blank margins, all evidently dating from the mid 1780s. The pages are a little creased at their outer margins but are generally in good, fresh condition.
A very rare pamphlet attributable to Jean Joseph Louis Graslin (1728-1790), financier, economist, and creator of the Quartier Graslin in the centre of the city of Nantes (Loire-Atlantique), a significant late eighteenth-century urban development initiative. As the pamphlet explains. a Sieur Longo, “nouveau Directeur du Spectacle à Nantes”, had then recently proposed to replace the existing dilapidated theatre there by a new wooden theatre building, to be built by him at his own expense if the municipal authorities would hand over to him a small local building plot which he had identified. The pamphlet’s author strongly opposes this proposal and suggests instead that a larger, better-sited and more fire-proof stone-built theatre should be erected in the newly created Place Graslin, currently being laid out with money loaned by Graslin at a very generous rate of interest. The resulting handsome stone-built theatre, built in 1784-7 to designs by the local architect Mathurin Crucy in a neo-classical style (and rebuilt in 1811-3 after a fire), dominates the Place Graslin today, as Graslin had intended, and the arguments that the author of the present pamphlet puts forward are indeed persuasive. Although the pamphlet refers throughout to Graslin in the third person, the entry for Graslin in the Biographie Universelle includes it among Graslin’s own publications, and an attribution of it to Graslin seems thoroughly convincing. An ownership inscription shows that the present copy belonged to Christophe Clair Daniel de Kervégan (1735-1817), the first Mayor of the municipality of Nantes when reformed in the opening stages of the French Revolution, and contemporary pencil notes presumably in his hand suggest that Kervégan was not a supporter of Graslin’s opinions. The pamphlet does not appear to be held in major libraries with specialist holdings of books on architecture or urban planning, and must be rare even in older French institutional libraries.