Octopus map reflecting French anti-Semitism at the turn of the 20th century

Bruno / Imp. Paul Dupont, LIRE LA BASTILLE Journal Hebdomadaire Illustré ANTIMAÇONNIQUE [“Read La Bastille, the Illustrated Weekly Anti-Masonic Newspaper”]. Paris: [Paul] Copin-Albancelli, ND [but ca. 1906].
Chromolithographic poster, 59”h x 41 ¾”w at neat line plus margins. Tax stamp affixed at lower right. Some in-coloring to small losses along folds and two larger areas of loss to blue background at left. Conservation mounted on heavy canvas.

A spectacular albeit noxious French persuasive map using the octopus motif to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Freemasonry.

As in other European nations, French anti-Semitism has a long history, most famously manifesting itself in the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s and collaboration with Nazi deportation of Jews during the Second World War. In the public mind, Jews were often linked with Masons and accused of forming an international cabal for the subversion of Christian society. La Bastille—“the Illustrated Weekly Anti-Masonic Newspaper”—fed off these anxieties and had a decent publishing run from 1902-1915. It was one of at least three similarly-minded publications overseen by Paul Copin-Albancelli and Louis Dasté (a pseudonym for André Baron).

Offered here is a mammoth chromolithographic poster promoting La Bastille and its message, which would have been affixed in a public space to drive bulk sales (“1f. 50 le cent, 10 f. le mille”). It central motif is a vast octopus with a crudely stereotypical Jewish face (large nose, dark complexion, thick red lips), wearing masonic symbols (compass and square, gold rings, &c), and spreading its tentacles across France to grasp eight figures, each representing a key facet of the nation. Lest the message is unclear, a text panel at left explains: “The octopus is freemasonry. It has France in its grip, and it binds with its long arms the army, justice, public instruction, clergy, youth, administration… all the living forces of the nation. She exhausts it and delivers it without defense to the Jew and to the stranger.”

The earliest use of an octopus motif on a propaganda map was probably on Fred Rose’s Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877, where it was used to represent an aggressively imperialist Russia. The motif reappeared many times since, in any number of contexts, representing among others Prussia, Standard Oil, wealthy London landlords, and Winston Churchill, but this promotional poster for La Bastille is by far the most spectacular—and offensive—I have seen.

OCLC 693294589 (Bibliotheque nationale only, as of Oct. 2018). Not in Persuasive Maps: The PJ Mode Collection.