VOLTAIRE Zadig ou la Destinée, Histoire orientale


The first edition from Lyon of Zadig

Copy contemporary bound with the arms of Jean Bouhier, President at the Parliament of Burgundy.

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VOLTAIRE. Zadig ou la Destinée, Histoire orientale. S.l., 1748. Followed by]: [IGNACE HUGARY DE LAMARCHE-COURMONT]. Lettres d’Aza ou d’un péruvien.

2 texts bound in one 12mo volume [138 x 78 mm] of: I/ viii pp., (1) l., 178 pp.; II/ (4) ll., 186 pp. Full marbled calf, large coat of arms at the center of the covers, spine ribbed and decorated, sprinkled edges. Contemporary binding.

First edition from Lyon of Zadig and first one complete from a single bookseller. In 1747, the previous year, this novel, incomplete of 3 chapters out of 18, was published under the title Memnon. The following year, in 1748, Zadig was completed and published for the first time under this title, but the twelve first quires were printed by the bookseller Prault and Voltaire had the rest of his manuscript printed by the bookseller Lescure of Nancy. This hybrid volume was given in Paris as from September 10th, 1748.

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Our copy corrects the mistakes mentioned in the errata of the previous edition and is published more or less simultaneously during the second trimester of 1748.

The dedicatory epistle to Madame de Pompadour, called The Sultana Shéraa starts this way: “Delight for the eyes, torment of the hearts, light of the spirit, I do not kiss dust at your feet, because you barely walk, or on Iran carpets or on roses. I offer you the Translation of a Book from an ancient Wise person, who being happy for having nothing to do, was happy by writing the History of Zadig”.

When Voltaire writes this novel, he is in Cirey, with Madame du Châtelet. It is actually by taking part in a game during a party given in Sceaux for the duchess du Maine that Voltaire must have started to write tales. After a few more or less happy trials, he published in 1747 ‘Memnon, histoire orientale’, then the following year, the novel was republished under the title of ‘Zadig ou la destinée, histoire orientale’.

“‛Zadig’ is, here and there, based on real characters and if we aren’t more sensitive to all this mischievousness, we can’t be seduced by the spirit, the vivacity of its attacks against the inevitable flaws of the sovereigns, against the baseness and dishonesty of their entourage; against the abuse of the clergy who takes advantage of the naivety of all and the power of some; against the women, almost all of them frivolous and stupid, when they aren’t complete rogues. This is here a continuous and varied suite of pinpricks, scratches, light and crafty satires, portraits that are caricatures. The tale is brilliantly lively and written in an admirable, easy and smiling style, marrying all the twists and turns of a malicious thought where many things are said in a few words”. (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, VI, p. 770).

The second text, Lettres d’Aza ou d’un péruvien, is here in first edition.

Precious edition, the rarest of the two first enlarged editions published under the title ‘Zadig’, and one of the extremely rare copies known in its contemporary armorial binding, here with the arms of Jean Bouhier (1673-1746), President at the Parliament of Burgundy and great book collector. Olivier, pl. 2423.

Jacques Guérin owned the other enlarged edition of 1748, preserved in its contemporary morocco binding sold 20 years ago for more than 20 000 €. « Bibliothèque Jacques Guérin. Sixième partie. Paris, 7 juin 1990. Tajan, n°61 ».

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