Saturday, 7 January 2012

Nicolas Gouin Dufief

Yesterday we learned that in 1821 Jerome Nicholas mode of teaching was that of Nicolas Gouïn Dufief.

So who was Dufief ???

The story sounds familair .
Dufief, son of royalists and counterrevolutionaries Nicolas-Henri Dufief and Victoire-Aime-Libault-Gouin Dufief, was born sometime in 1776 in Nantes, France. He inherited his parents' monarchist leanings, and at age sixteen he volunteered for the Corps de la Marine Royale at Enghein under Jean Charles, Comte d'Hector.
Dufief's background was less literary than military.
By 1793 the royalist cause was lost, and the Dufief family, suffering severe deprivations, was scattered. Dufief, age seventeen, sailed first to England and then to the West Indies. After the insurrection in Santo Domingo in 1793 he moved with other émigrés to Philadelphia, where his interest in bookish matters manifested itself.
Before becoming a full-scale bookseller, Dufief taught French and subsequently compiled language texts that he sold to his students.
Could our Jerome be one of this students .

Nicolas Gouin Dufief, Franco-American bookseller in Philadelphia during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, helped increase Franco-American understanding during a critical period of history by teaching French and by selling French books. As a bookseller he numbered among his customers one of the first American collectors of rare books, William Mackenzie, as well as Thomas Jefferson, for whom he supplied many desiderata and with whom he carried on an extensive bibliophilic correspondence. Great books and great libraries passed through his hands, including the remnants of Benjamin Franklin's library and of the Westover (Virginia) library of William Byrd I and William Byrd II . Dufief thus helped alert an American readership to the intellectual value of antiquarian books, especially those in the French language.

Young Dufief promptly purchased books and arranged for lessons in English, but the yellow-fever epidemic thwarted his plans, and he moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Remaining there for eight months, he taught himself English and developed the innovative language techniques that he later described as the method of nature, a method that eschewed grammatical rules and advocated the study of phrases and sentences rather than of single words. Thus his pioneer work in modern French instruction was a stepping-stone to his career in bookselling.

By 1795 Dufief was back in Philadelphia. At this time he supervised an English-language edition of the General View or Abstract of the Arts and Sciences by his compatriot the Philadelphia bookseller Merédic Louis Elie Moreau de Saint-Méry (Philadelphia, 1797).
He also announced but never published a "French Grammatical Companion; or Concise and Easy Practical Grammar of the French Tongue." In the Aurora General Advertiser of 15 November 1798 Dufief advertised a "day and evening school" at 63 South Second Street, where private tuition in French and translations were available. His teaching was by the conversation method, upholding the genius rather than the grammar of the language. Teaching was soon combined with bookselling. On 8 April 1799 Dufief gave notice in the Aurora that he had for sale "an assortment of some of the best French writers and a variety of other books in his line." By then he was at a new location, on Fifth Street between Chesnut and Market, where he combined his dual professions of language instruction and bookselling. In June of the same year he successfully petitioned for naturalization as an American citizen.
From the time of his naturalization Dufief coupled teaching with bookselling. It was a natural step from giving instruction in French to selling books to his pupils, and as his reputation advanced he widened his market to include the general public.
With the new century Dufief announced that he had begun compilation of a text embodying nature's method of teaching language, and by that time he had met Jefferson in Philadelphia. Jefferson, who was then vice president of the United States, was also a Francophile and a collector who soon became one of Dufief's most important customers. The stage was set for an influential career in bookselling.
Dufief's advertisements in the 1801 issues of the Aurora indicate that he already had a stock that could whet the appetites of book lovers, especially those with Gallic tastes. He offered "an assortment of the best French writers, and books for the use of the English and French schools" (2 April), "Books In Various Languages" (8 April), and "an Interesting and Valuable Collection of French Books" (14 May), including works by Honoré Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau; Jean François de La Croix; Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre; and Bertrand de Moleville. In the aftermath of the French Revolution there was a strong American market for French books, especially in Philadelphia, where so many émigrés flocked. To satisfy their interests Dufief imported from dealers' catalogues, advertising in the Aurora on 25 June and 1 July 1802 that he had "just received from Paris, by the Tryphenia, and other arrivals, a handsome and select collection of French Books," among them the writings of Voltaire, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, Comte Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, and Montesquieu.
In 1801 Dufief--then operating his book business at Voltaire's Head, 68 South Fourth Street--substantially augmented his stock by acquiring the remainder of Franklin's library. Judging from the history of that library, it seems not to have been considered an extraordinarily desirable acquisition in 1801, except perhaps by Dufief, to whom the presence in the collection of French books doubtless appealed. Competition for what was left of the library was comparatively meager, and in 1801 it became the property of Dufief.

The early history of the library is uncertain and conjectural. On Franklin's death in 1790 the bulk of his library of more than four thousand volumes was left to his grandson Temple Franklin, who went to England and never returned. He may have left the books in the care of his Philadelphia friend George Fox, and the library may subsequently have been sold or pledged to Robert Morris Jr., who determined to dispose of it.....

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