Paris, Augustin Courbé, 1647.
2 parts in 2 volumes 8vo [219 x 137 mm] of: I/ (12) ll. including 1 frontispiece, 640 pp., (8) ll. of table; II/ (1) l., 683 pp., (17) pp. Handwritten ex libris in the blank margin of p. 15 of the 1st volume, repeated p. 31 of the second volume.
Full brown granite like calf, double gilt fillet around the covers, spine ribbed and decorated, marbled edges. Contemporary binding.
First edition of the 258 chosen letters of Guez de Balzac, written from 1637 to 1647, “his most significant literary work”. It was reprinted several times (Brunet, I, 632).
Tchemerzine I, 415.
One of the very rare deluxe copies printed on large paper measuring 25 to 30 mm more than copies from the ordinary issue, preserved in its elegant contemporary bindings.
“In 1647 the Lettres Choisies are published, 258 letters in seven new books (OC., L. X-XVI). Balzac aims there an eloquence of the heart, exciting the sweet and human passions, where “the power to constrain, is disguised in the Art of persuading”, where subtle mockery and Atticism reign.
Balzac establishes a new heroic and modern “humanism”, embracing the heart, taste and reason, under the name of politeness. Prose writer and Latin poet of the first rank, he fulfills the major ambition of the statutes of the Academy with the undisputed triumph of French language. Resigned to the hidden God, he has faith in a rational creation and strives to rethink society and art according to nature.
“Observer”, he elaborates a policy where culture could make princes and subjects “more human”. Cantor of the retreat, but still a worldly man, he pleads for urbanity against the double betrayal of arrogant ignorance and pedantry. Lastly “atticist”, he testifies for a work à la Malherbe that doesn’t stifle the spontaneity nor the “reasonable fury” of a Teophile. Strength and majesty, but sweetness; diversity, bur order, economy and choices; seriousness, but subtlety of the mockery and joy, such are the marks of the art of pleasing and persuading that he proposes to the court and to the good society, and which founds an authentic Louis XIII classicism.”
“True oracle of the “Precieux » and of the Hotel de Rambouillet, he seeks to impose his law in the matter of style ; his proficiency makes him the reformer of French prose as Malherbe has been that of poetry.
His “Letters” remain a leading document on the history of language. Audible, clear and harmonious, Balzac’s prose is a model of classic letters.
Brunet (I, 632) mentions only one copy printed on large paper sold at the high price of 95 Gold fr. in 1858.
From Albert Natural’s library with ex-libris.