Folio (277 x 184 mm). 193 leaves, paginated 1-167 166-167 168-384. Densely written in several cursive hands, some rapidly written but most quite legible, approximately 36 lines per page. 3 columns, for date, debtor or creditor and items, and prices. First leaf wrinkled and darkened, a few corners creased, dusty at beginning and end, occasional staining. Contemporary parchment over pasteboards, manuscript title on front cover, traces of fore-edge ties (very worn and soiled, lower cover with loss to parchment, spine torn). A meticulous day-to-day account book or journal of an important Grenoble textile merchant (unnamed), comprising a complete chronological record of transactions for two and half years, from August 1771 to February 1774. Recording sales ranging from small measures of cloth for private individuals planning a specific garment, to large orders for tailors, haberdashers and seamstresses, from Grenoble as well as towns and villages in the Dauphiné and farther afield, these detailed accounts provide a window into daily life in a busy provincial hub of commerce during the last years of the ancien régime.
Grenoble in the second half of the eighteenth century was a prosperous center of trade and production in luxury goods, and particularly in textiles: it had become the major French center for glove-making, and was a crossroads of trade in textiles and silks produced locally and in Voiron, Romans, Lyon, and the Rhône valley. Customers from the entire region sent to Grenoble for their textiles. Thus clients buying from our anonymous cloth merchant came not only from Grenoble itself but also from, for example, St. Martin d’Uriage, Montaillieu, Morge, Voiron, Saint-Jean-d’Hérans, Lyon, and Gap. Besides tailors and seamstresses, they included farmers, soldiers, ladies and gentlemen (bourgeoises and bourgeois), wig-makers, notaries, newly bereaved widows, nuns and priests, button-sellers, hat-makers, businessmen (négociants), goldsmiths, bailiffs, bakers, dukes, parlementarians, shoemakers, scribes, a surgeon, and a jeweler. All types of transactions are recorded: receipts, deliveries, payments, and records of orders and debts. Our merchant disposed of a large and varied stock and the resources to order elsewhere unusual materials or items not in stock. Nothing was too small or too large. For her wedding, for example, Mlle Silvestre of Grenoble ordered, on Sept. 5 1771, 18 aunes (a measurement of cloth, about 1.3 yards) of striped thick corduroy, 17 aunes of “papeline capucine” (poplin or plain weave), 4 aunes of English taffetas, and several more aunes and semi-aunes of different cloths, totalling 188 livres 11 sols; while a day earlier Monsieur Denier Delorme, a municipal councillor (élu) of Grenoble, had bought two pairs of stockings lined in Avignon silk for 11 livres (or sols?). Colors and patterns are often mentioned; blue, black, white, and striped being the most frequently recurring adjectives. Besides cloth, this large store sold buttons, ribbon, braided trim, leather pockets or purses (poches de peau), and other necessary accessories for clothing. This acount book, with its meticulous recording of prices, provides concrete data of the costs of common goods in the early 1770s, and the detailed inventory of merchandise, often mentioning the specific garments for which swatches of cloth were intended, makes this a potentially valuable first-hand source for historians of the textile industry and of costume. Item #2958