Todays book of wondrous reading , is a book which holds a rare place in the history of Authorship in Literature.


First, in this day and age of disappearing bookstores, it is no longer a common experience to look at a book shel full of early books with out labels or partial labels or just plain old non informative labels and have to pull the book down and truly open it and read it.. at least the first leaf or so.


But when i get to do this is for me a ‘fun’ challenge this month I bought a book from a fellow dealer in Barcelona who is about to issue her first catalogue , when the world eventually opens up.

When she issues it I will let you know!

So when i was reading through the Proofs of her catalogue, I was happy surprised to find the above book, and it sent me back to the 1980’s when I was in Doctor Pangloss’s shop in Harvard Square and found  a copy of this book…AUTEURS DE GUISEZ!

That copy I bought on the spot from Herb Hillman, then we discussed skiing and he gave me  a flash rundown if what it was like to be an Antiquarian Bookseller. I’m pretty sure it was the second ‘truly’ antiquarian book I bought…

Herb told me ” that there are lots of rewards in selling rare books but money and people are not either of them.” Or something wonderfully grumpy like that.  Herb like I was a College Wrestler and he often threatened to ‘throw'(physically)  customers out of the shop.

He was a easy to upset, walk in his shop don’t look at anything and ask  …or Demand  “DO YOU HAVE A….” I recall him saying  “yes .. go look for it! ”

All this is to say as I was dwelling in the ideas on his shelves I found this anonymous book on Authors hiding their identities, how could I resit. It was inexpensive (and still is considerably under valued in my opinion). What it led me into… I can’t really say.. It was the time of Postmodern anti-authorship–and Plato (via Derrida) Distrusting the written word and authorship it self.  ( this is one of the underlying themes in my upcoming catalogue [Fascicule XXIII] IMG_3066





Now, far too many years later I have a second copy of the book which I haven’t thought about in at least 20 or 30 years..

Books are always already old friends (“toujours déjà”) it is great to just ‘happen upon them” taking a book in a humble  binding without a spine table for me has always been Un coup des de ( a throw of the dice) where , I read an unknown book as an author who “tel qu’en lei Meme elfin l’eternity le change” .. and now looking at it again, I see that this wonderful book reminds me




405J   Adrien Baillet  (But Anonymous) 1649-1706

Auteurs deguisez : Sous des noms etrangers ; empruntez, supposez, feints à plaisir, chiffrez, renversez, retournez, ou changez d’une langue en une autre.


  1. Paris, Chez Antoine Dezallier, 1690.     $ 950


IMG_294812mo. First edition. xxv,(2),615,(1)pp.

First edition of the earliest French work on pseudonyms..

Baillet was, from 1680 to his death, librarian to M. de Lamoignon, advocat-general to the parlement of Paris, of whose library he produced a manuscript catalogue raisonné in 35 folio volumes.

Just to be sure that Baillet is really the author…I go to  Barbier to discover the author of this pioneering work, here we read that

– Cet ouvrage [était] le premier publié en France sur ce genre de recherches bibliographiques.

The subject is approached from various angles, the psychology of pseudonymity, the various types of cognomes etc. This was a preliminary treatise, which should have been followed by a Recueil des Auteurs Déguisés but unfortunately the author died in 1706 leaving his work unfinished, and it was not for another 100 years, with the publication of Barbier’s Dictionnaire des Ouvrages Anonymes in 1806, that the project was finally completed. In his preface Barbier pays eloquent tribute to the erudition of his predecessor. “In 1690 Adrien Baillet (1649 – 1706) published his Auteurs deguisez…

A list of nearly 1,700 identifications of pseudonyms accompanied this extensive and very interesting discussion. Unconsciously, Baillet adopted in this list a new procedure that has had many imitators… Aprosio’s Visiera alzata and Baillet’s Auteurs deguisez are the first great contributions to the study of cryptonyms by librarians.” (Taylor & Mosher, The Bibliographical History of Anonyma and Pseudonyma, pp. 115-116).

Baillet’s bibliographical activities left him no time to change his clothes or to eat more than one meal a day.

This book a very sizable well-indexed tome of some 615 pages. To be sure it is not to be compared with Querard or Bar- bier, since it is a treatise rather than a catalogue. The work, written ostensibly to amuse as well as to instruct, is divided in orderly fashion into four compartments. The first contains sev- eral chapters which deal with general reflexions on change of name and the customs usually observed in such a procedure. The second concerns the motives which authors have had to change their names and disguise themselves. The third outlines and treats of the ways in which they have brought about the modification.

Finally, part four discusses the inconveniences caused by writers who have taken this step.




CG, VI, 562; Barbier

Wade, Ira. “Voltaire and Baillet’s Manual of Pseudonyms.” Modern Language Notes, vol. 50, no. 4, 1935, pp. 209–215. JSTOR, Accessed 20 May 2020.

Baillet’s treatise is a veritable handbook for one wishing to adopt a pseudonym. Not only are the methods devised to conceal one’s name discussed at length, but also the motives instigating the act are fully analyzed.


Baillet lists twenty-one different procedures to be followed in effecting this particular disguise: one may change his name into that of some place of birth, dwelling, fief, seigneury, or ” benefice.” An author may take the name of another. Or he may fashion a patronymic after the manner of the Greeks from one of his ances- tors. He may adopt a name of a profession, or rank, or even that of a Society, Academy, or monastery. He may assume a ” nom de guerre.” He may disguise himself with a sobriquet. Sometimes he finds his pseudonym in the subject-matter, in one of the characters or even in the title of his work. He may ” affecter l’anti- phrase ” or ” prendre des synonimes,” or adopt a cognomen whose meaning is close to that of the one suppressed. He may translate his name from one language to another, change his Christian name, increase or decrease the number of his surnames. He may devise an anagram of his original name, design a new one from the initials of the original, lengthen or shorten his own.

The book of Baillet, thorough and interesting as it is, must never have been a seventeenth-century best seller. It was however re- printed in 1722 in volume VI of the Jugements des savants, con-siderably annotated by De la Monnoye. In the course of time, one copy of the 1690 edition was taken into the Bastille under circumstances which have been discussed fully by Funck-Brentano.1 Inspiring Voltaire who read it there to change his name!