I – Paris, Augustin Courbé, 1657.
II – Paris, Augustin Courbé, 1658.
2 titles bound in one 12mo volume [132 x 75 mm] of: I/ (49) ll. including the frontispiece, the title, the epistle, the table and the half-title, pp. 3 to 387, (1) bl.p. and (10) ll.; II/ (6) ll., pp. 3 to 278, (14) ll., (3) bl.ll. Full contemporary overlapping vellum, flat spine with the handwritten title. Contemporary binding.
I/ 12mo first edition, published the same year as the 4to first edition, rarer and surprisingly more expensive than the latter (see the auctions cited by Tchemerzine). Tchemerzine, I, 371; Brunet, I, 632.
Les Entretiens are a compilation of little essays on various subjects of literature and history presented in a conversational tone and addressed to lords and literary men of his time, among which Conrart, the Marquis de Montausier (to whom the compilation is actually dedicated), Sarasin, Racan, Chapelain, Girard,…
“Jean Louis Guez de Balzac (1595-1654) started writing from Italy his ‘Lettres’ that would ensure him glory someday. Straightaway, he gained the admiration of the French high society. When he returned to Paris in 1622, he was already famous. One after the other, all the great characters began searching him; Richelieu himself made everything in his power to be seen in a good light by him, as he cared so much to link himself to such a remarkable mind. In 1634, he was elected as a member of the French Academy […]. Everywhere, his sentence is perfectly constructed. All in all, Guez de Balzac gave to prose the same favor than Malherbe to poetry. He prepared the birth of classic prose.” (Dictionnaire des Auteurs, I, 208).
This posthumous edition published by Guillaume Girard, is decorated with a fine frontispiece, an engraved vignette on the title, as well as an ornamental head and an ornamental initial on the first leaf of the dedicatory epistle to the marquis de Montausier. This is the only edition, with the 4to first edition, presenting the 41 interviews, the 40th was deleted in the later editions.
This 12mo first edition has always been the most sought-after. Thus, it is interesting to notice that Tchemerzine mentions two copies of this 12mo first edition, bound in calf and in vellum, which were sold 125 fr. and 120 fr. before 1918, whereas the two equivalent copies to the 4to first edition were sold 20 fr. and 10 fr. only at the same time, which is 6 times less expensive.
“This work is dedicated to the queen Christina of Sweden. If, in ‘Le Prince’, Balzac praises Louis XIII and Richelieu, in this work, which can be considered as the author’s master-piece, Guez de Balzac studies the customs of court and looks for means to reconcile duty with politics.” (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, I, 247).
A beautiful very pure copy of this compilation containing two sought-after texts by Guez de Balzac, preserved in its contemporary overlapping vellum.
None of these 12mo first editions have appeared on the public market since the beginning of the reports.