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1848: creation of the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris

In the aftermath of the Revolution of February 1848, book stores, all republicans, participated actively in creating the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris.

At the turn of the Revolution

On 24 February 1848, Alphonse de Lamartine proclaimed the Second Republic and the same evening a provisional government was formed. On 4 March, Louis-Antoine Garnier-Pagès was appointed Minister of Finance. One of his measures to turn around the disastrous economic situation of the indebted and constrained country was to create specialised discount institutions. The government had to act quickly and initially bypass the bankers, who were bogged down in their difficulties. In Paris, booksellers, publishers and politicians provided the necessary boost for this project.

Men of the situation

From 7 March 1848, Garnier-Pages created 69 discount houses in the largest French cities. These discount houses were completed by sub-houses specialised by industrial branches and by general stores holding the pledged goods. On 8 March 1848, the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was created. Garnier-Pagès, Duclerc and Pagnerre were joined by the journalist and politician, Armand Marrast, as well as by a cohort of booksellers-publishers: Louis Hachette, Langlois, Charles Gosselin, Ambroise Firmin-Didot and the founder of the Hippolyte Biesta characters. Because the publisher-bookseller profession suffered directly the shortcomings of the French credit system, the profession had to immobilise capital to produce books before it could sell them. The creation of a discount house was discussed at the Cercle de la Librairie (Bookseller Circle) as early as 29 February 1848 and the members declared they were in favour of this project, supported by Pagnerre.

Pagnerre, at the junction of powers

Booksellers and publishers were not the only ones concerned closely by credit. Other Parisian trades needed to discount commercial drafts. But the Revolution of 1848 was a pivotal time. For these major booksellers, who had a clear vision of the situation and were close to the authorities, this period crystallised their determination to move forward effectively in the economic area. Pagnerre, appointed deputy mayor of Paris in February 1848 and present in the provisional government, was a man of influence in publishing as in politics.

He had founded the Comptoir Central de la Librairie in 1840 and the Cercle de la Librairie in 1847. Evidently his innovative ideas were of prime importance in the creation of the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris, which he briefly headed at its beginnings – before stepping aside for Hippolyte Biesta, assisted by the banker Alphonse Pinard. Over the years, the CNEP demonstrated its utility. The new institution, born from a revolution, took an increasingly important place in the French banking sector, becoming an international trade finance bank in 1860.

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