The French Economy in the Year of the Revolution

[Economics - France]. Apperçu de la Balance du Commerce de la France, Année 1789: Ensemble le Relevé de la Population des Finances et Forces Militaires des Principales Puissances de l'Europe.

[Paris, no publisher, 1789].

Engraved broadsheet, ca. 610 x 930 mm. Heightened with red wash and gold, neatly presented in tables with red and yellow wash with gold ruled borders. On laid paper with large armorial watermark and countermark of D. & C. Blauw.


An engraved table with detailed statistics on international trade, probably prepared for official use. Such large-scale synoptic tables, representing on a single sheet of paper a substantial amount of economic and fiscal information about the state of the kingdom of France in a given year, were produced at least from 1785 onwards. The last known example dates from 1792, after which - France being drawn into war with most other European nations, the Terror looming large, and French economy in shambles - the production of these useful aids would appear to have been discontinued.

The table provides data about the following 24 countries: France, England, Turkey, Austria, Russia, Spain, Prussia, Portugal, Holland, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Denmark, Sweden, Sardinia, Saxe, Venice, Bavaria, the Papal States, Tuscany, Hanover, Genoa, Poland, Wurttemberg, Hesse-Kassel and Switzerland. The information concerns the surface, population, density, annual revenue, military expenditure, general expenditure, infantry and cavalry, and the naval strengths of each of these polities. Among other information, the "Apperçu" also includes data about the number of ships sent to and returned from India and China by European nations, with details about the value of expected and imported goods, and the balance. A summary calculates the real value of the importations in Europe. Remarkably, the French budget for 1789 is stated to have generated a surplus of 60 millon livres tournois - in spite of the fact that in truth there was a deficit of 126 million livres, crucially precipitating the downfall of the Ancien Regime: it was precisely the chaos of the royal finances that finally resulted in the Estates General being called into session in early 1789, soon leading to the outbreak of the French Revolution with the fall of the Bastille in Paris in July.

While similar examples of such "Apperçus" for the years 1785-88 and 1790-92 are kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris, no copy of this present issue for 1789 has been found in France.

Central vertical fold. Some slight edge flaws restored. Provenance: Her Majesty's State Paper Office (their ink stamp at centre left); latterly in a London private collection.


Goldsmiths'-Kress no. 13840.2. OCLC 1006406762.