Petitioning the King: The Case of Provincial Printers in Eighteenth-Century France [Book Review]

Argumentation 26 (1):161-170 (2012)
This essay studies an argumentative practice in eighteenth-century France by exploring the persuasiveness of some petitions to obtain printer licences. Those who wanted to enter the printing business in eighteenth-century France had to obtain licences from the King to do so. The French government had established limits to the number of printers it would permit to operate in the realm; hence, there was competition for any vacancy that became open. Thus, the context is that of trained printers in provincial towns, most of them with their own printing equipment, applying to the government in Paris for the highly valued licences to run printing businesses. We examine a small number of the original petitions and give an account of their persuasive capacity by (a) noticing the narrative character of the letters and (b) distinguishing between propositional and affective attitudes. Our view is that a reconstruction of the petitions as reasonable persuasive discourse is possible when it is noticed how the two kinds of attitudes can be combined to promote the same end
Keywords Printer licences  Eighteenth-century France  Petitions  Technical requirements  Moral requirements  Narrative  Propositional attitude  Affective attitude
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