Pierre-Jules Hetzel (January 15, 1814 – March 17, 1886) was a French editor and publisher. He is best known for his extraordinarily lavishly illustrated editions of Jules Verne's novels highly prized by collectors today.
Born in Chartres, Eure-et-Loir, Hetzel studied law in Strasbourg, and founded a publishing company in 1837. He was the publisher of Honoré de Balzac, whose Comédie humaine began to be appear in 1841, and of Victor Hugo and Émile Zola. In 1843, he founded the Nouveau magazine des enfants ("New Children's Magazine"). Hetzel was a well-known republican, and in 1848 he became chief of cabinet for Alphonse de Lamartine (then minister of Foreign Affairs), and afterward for the minister of the Navy. He went into self-imposed exile in Belgium after the coup d'état which ushered in the Second Empire, and there he continued his political and editorial activities, notably by clandestinely publishing Hugo's Les Châtiments, a harsh pamphlet against the Second Empire.
When the political regime was changed in France, he returned home and published Proudhon and Baudelaire. An important edition of the tales by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Gustave Doré, dates from this period. He founded the Bibliothèque illustrée des Familles ("The Family Illustrated Library"), which was renamed to fr:Le Magasin d'éducation et de récréation ("Education and Entertainment Magazine") in 1864. His goal was to have scientists, authors, and illustrators collaborating to create educational works for the whole family.
Hetzel's fame comes mostly for his editions of the Voyages Extraordinaires ("Extraordinary Journeys") by Jules Verne. The stories were originally published in biweekly chapters as a series in his Magasin. Once all chapters of a story were printed there, the story would appear in book form. Typically this happened towards the end of the year so the books could be purchased as Christmas presents for older children. Originally, there were three editions: one economical, without illustrations; another one in small format, with a few illustrations; and a third one in a bigger in-octavo format and richly illustrated. It is the last edition that is now very popular among book collectors.
Hetzel discovered Jules Verne, but scholars still debate to what extent Hetzel "made" Verne, or if it was Verne who "made" Hetzel's publishing career. Each benefited from the other, and their relationship went beyond that of author and publisher.
Hetzel rejected Verne's 1863 manuscript for Paris in the Twentieth Century because he thought it presented a vision of the future that was far too negative and unbelievable for contemporary audiences, though to many present-day scholars the story was remarkably accurate in its predictions. Verne locked the manuscript away and no longer wrote futuristic, dystopian stories. Paris in the Twentieth Century was first published in France in 1994.
Pierre-Jules Hetzel was also an author for the youth, under the pseudonym P.-J. Stahl. He was an atheist. Hetzel died in Monte-Carlo in 1886. After his death, the publishing business was directed by his son, and later purchased by Hachette in 1914.
For more examples of the pictures featured in the books:
- Standish, David (2007). Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface. Da Capo Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-306-81533-1. "Various biographers have pointed out that his publisher, Hetzel, an atheist, routinely urged Verne to insert more family values—style Christianity into his stories to make them more commercially viable among mainstream readers."
- Les Cartonages Hetzel (in French). An authoritative site to identify a Jules Verne book.
- Pierre-Jules Hetzel and Elisée Reclus
- Hetzel and Verne: Collaboration and Conflict