On November 28, 1789, the deputy Armand Camus denounced to the Assembly the existence of the “Red Book”, which contained information on pensions granted by the king. The “Red Book” was given to the Pension Committee of the Constituent Assembly in March 1790 and was published on April 1. The Controller-General of Finances Jacques Necker, aware of the scandal and the political consequences of such a revelation, tried to dissuade the king to deny publication.
The red morocco binding is the origin of the name “Red Book” given to the “Register of bearer of orders from 1773 to 1788” which was published in 1790. Emblematic of royal splendor, these three sumptuous bindings made during the reign of Louis XV, are unique creations and among the finest in the eighteenth century. The royal bookbinders Pasdeloup Antoine (1685-1758) and Pierre-Paul Dubuisson (d. 1762) could be the creators. The gilt bindings catches the light and gives each volume a fascinating glow.
The “Red Book” is not a book of accounts, but a record of disbursements ordered by the king, who all received the royal signature “L” (for Louis). Published in 1790, the Red Book caused a public outcry in the press who reproduced and commented largely by mocking and insulting cartoons. Disclosure of the names of pensioners shocked. Most of them were rich nobles and several people from the court received pensions, often without any real reason. These disproportionate favors of the royal family, in order to favorite courtiers and noble families, were deeply shocking, given the deficit and popular misery.
The publication of the “Red Book” highlights the abuses of absolutism, the financial disorder and the need for reform.
Disclosure of beneficiaries of royal largesse further discredited the aristocracy and even produced an immense effect both in Paris and the provinces.
This case also reveals the weakness of Louis XVI, who procrastinated but could not find a solution in time to prevent the scandal.