In 1749, in the middle of the eighteenth century, Jacques François Guillauté, a French police officer and a mechanical engineer, who would later become an “Encyclopediste,” dedicated a richly illustrated manuscript to King Louis the 15th. The title of his manuscript was “Mémoire sur la Réformation de la Police de France.” With this token, he sought to convince the king to adopt a radical plan to reform the old French police system.
This work, along with numerous others in Europe at the time, formed part of a flourishing new genre which sought to constitute a new “science of police,” one which would not only improve the fight against crime, but moreover lay the basis for a whole new rationality of government. If this forgotten manuscript is worth remembering today, it is because it was one of the first attempts to articulate a new technology of power, one based on traces and archives, and which has since been widely perfected.
Guillauté’s prospectus contained a drawing of a strange machine, which formed the core of the whole project. Guillauté, proud of what he considered to be a revolutionary invention, called it “le serre-papiers,” the “Paperholder.”