En Hollande, chez Les Libraires associés [Paris], 1791.
2 parts in 1 volume 8vo [185 x 116 mm], 1 frontispiece, 283 pp., (2) ll., 191 pp.
Full red morocco, gilt border around the covers, flat spine richly decorated, inner border, gilt edges. Binding made about a century ago.
“First edition of the first work by Sade whose copies could be counted on the fingers of one hand.” Pierre Berès.
The touching printed dedication of the book, “A ma bonne amie”, is meant for the writer’s faithful companion of misery, Marie-Constance Quesnet; in this important apology of his writings, Sade justifies his undertaking and asserts that his purpose is to result in one of the most sublime lessons of morality that men have ever been taught, even if it was through a road scarcely spawn yet.
An adventure novel of the “noir genre”, pushed to its climax, the book immediately achieved considerable success. It was published at the moment when the Constituent Assembly restored to Sade his freedom after twelve years of captivity which had caused him numerous clashes with his family and society. Aristocrat, allied with the Bourbons, philosopher and libertine, Sade had been passionate about the Revolution which disdained his help; kept in captivity after the taking of the Bastille from where he was urging passers-by at the beginning of July 1789, the writer escaped the guillotine only thanks to the fall of Robespierre.
The allegorical frontispiece, of a neo-classical style, drawn and engraved by Philippe Chery under the supervision of Antoine Carrée, represents Virtue between Lust and Irreligion.
The first edition of 1791 and the new redaction of 1797 are equally rare and have sensibly the same value. Pierre Berès described a copy of the original of 1791 bound towards 1890 by Lortic brothers, “with beautiful margins” (height 190 mm) at the price of 375 000 FF (about 57 500 €) 30 years ago (Cat. 79, année 1989, n° 129). In June 2007, 12 years ago, the bookshop P. Sourget was cataloguing a copy of this extremely rare edition of 1791 bound towards 1910 by Tridullier at the price of 75 000 €.
Localization: we were able to locate only one copy among French public institutions, at the B.n.F.