The Little Blue Books That Made French Literature Mainstream

In 1602, brothers Jean and Nicolas Oudot were printers in Troyes, and sustainably minded to boot. Using recycled paper from previously published books, the innovative printmakers created low quality, travel-sized brochures, protected with covers made from used sugarloaf packaging the color of faded denim. These updated editions of classic texts (think fun-sized SparkNotes) this small-format printing model birthed were thus named livres bleus (blue books). Blue books, and the broader Bibliothèque bleue (blue library) publishing house, were made possible through the Oudot brothers’ association with the family of Claude Garnier, who was a Renaissance-era printer of popular literature himself, primarily for the king of France.

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