RACINE, Jean Œuvres de Racine. Tome Ier (et second).

Price : 39.000,00 

"Racine the poet of the heart and even more sublime because he is only sublime when it is necessary to be; Racine, the only tragic poet of his time whose genius was driven by taste." Voltaire. "First collective edition of the Works of Jean Racine, the first complete one. It is more sought after than that of 1687." (A. J. Guibert CNRS).

Exceptional ruled copy without any cancels and therefore of the first issue (Ref. Le Petit, p. 384), preserved in its pure and beautiful contemporary Jansenist morocco binding.


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A Paris, chez Denys Thierry, m.dc.xcvii (1697). Avec privilège du Roy.

2 parts in 2 volumes 12mo of : I/ (6) ll. including 1 frontispiece, 468 pp., ink stain p. 11; II/ (6) ll. including 1 frontispiece, 516 pp. In all 12 full-page figures included in the pagination.

Full red Jansenist morocco, spine ribbed, title gilt-stamped directly on the spine panel, large and very beautiful gilt inner border, gilt over marbled edges. Superb binding in contemporary Jansenist morocco.

155 x 92 mm.

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“First edition, very first issue, of the works of Jean Racine, before the corrections. Two less complete editions had preceded in 1676 and 1687”. (Mgr Jean Calvet).

” First collective edition of the works of Jean Racine, the first complete one. it is more sought-after than the one of 1687.” (A. J. Guibert. Jean Racine. CNRS. 1968)

Bound in beautiful contemporary morocco, it is of the most distinguished rarity and belongs to the small number of masterpieces of French literature and bibliophily.

Extremely rare condition“, mentioned Cl. Guérin in 1978, 45 years ago.

It fixes the definitive text of his work” (Tchemerzine, V, p. 360) and is illustrated with 2 frontispieces and 12 figures by François Chauveau.

Jules le petit (Bibliographie des éditions originales françaises) describes it as follows:

This excellent edition is the last one which was given by Racine, and it fixed the text of all the later editions. It is also the first one which is complete, and in which one made enter under a continuous pagination “Esther” and “Athalie”. It does not have a general preface, any more than the previous editions, but only prefaces for each play. Already, in 1687, the same booksellers had published an edition in which Phaedra had appeared, following the pagination of the second volume. This intermediate edition is less important than the one of 1697, revised obviously by Racine, who modified a little the text in some places and changed slightly the spelling of certain words. However, the 1697 edition was printed almost entirely after the other one. The differences of spelling are seen especially at the end of the words finished by the syllable ui or uy: in the edition of 1687, one writes, for example, « oui, lui, celui, ennui, aujourd’hui », and, in the edition of 1697, these words are often written « ouy, luy, celuy, ennuy, aujourd’huy », etc…

Racine deleted some verses in the 1697 edition, in the first two acts of the Thébaïde and in the last two of Bajazet. The preface of this last play offers differences with that of the preceding edition, and one page was deleted at the end.”

Part II of the edition of 1697 contains corrections made by cancels after the printing, in eleven places, on pages 146, 163, 172, 273; 407, 427-428, 451, 471-472, 503. This makes 9 cancelled sheets, containing only typographical corrections or insignificant changes of wrong words. These cancels differ from the original leaves in that one sees on all of them at the bottom the words Tome II, which are found in the course of the volume only at the bottom of the first leaf of each quire.”

Precious copy without any cancels not including the mention Tome II at the bottom of pages 146, 163, 172, 273, 407, 427-428, 451, 471-472, 503 and thus of the first issue before the corrections.

“In a thousand years from now, Racine will make people shed tears; he will be the admiration of men in all the regions of the earth; he will inspire commiseration and tenderness in humanity. One will ask who he was, from which country, and one will envy him to France… “. Diderot.

“Racine and Corneille, with all their genius, are themselves only talkers… but with Racine everything is feeling; he knew how to make each one speak for himself, and it is in this that he is truly unique among the dramatic authors of his nation.” Rousseau.

Value of the 1697 edition bound in beautiful contemporary morocco.

First editions of Racine bound in fine contemporary morocco appear very rarely on the market.

The public sales of the famous Jacques Guérin library did not present any copy of the three collective originals of 1676, 1687 and 1697 in such a condition and one has to go back to the 1984 sale to find a copy of the non-original reissue of 1702 bound in two volumes 12mo, citron morocco doubled with morocco with the arms of Madame de Chamillart” sold 480 000 FF (72 000 €) 39 years ago.

Ref : “ Très beaux livres anciens de Jacques Guérin. Paris, March 29, 1984, n° 81).

Closer to the present copy, the two 12mo volumes of the “Œuvres de Racine” printed in 1676 (incomplete edition according to Mgr Jean Calvet) bound like here in contemporary morocco, were sold 320 000 FF (48 000 €) 42 years ago (Ref : Hôtel Drouot, 19 June 1981, n°203).

But the only relevant comparison comes from the analysis of the catalogs of the Count of Lignerolles and Jacques Guérin. In 1894, Lignerolles presented under n°1651 a copy of the Works of Racine of 1697 identical to ours and under n°1652, the Chamillart copy printed in 1702 and resold by Jacques Guérin on March 29, 1984.

Library of the late Mr. le comte de lignerolles. Paris, March 1894:

N°1652. Oeuvres de Racine. A Paris, Par la Compagnie des libraires, 1702.

2 vol. 12mo, ruled, front and fig, citron mor, blind-stamped fillet, with red mor. doublures, inner border, gilt edges.

This edition contains the same materials as the one of 1697, but some differences, notably in the comedy of the Plaideurs whose text is largely reworked, and in the tragedy of Esther which is divided into five acts instead of three.

With the arms and the monogram of Madame de Chamillart.

Sold 1 800 F gold on May 29, 1894.

March 1894

N°1651. Oeuvres de Racine. In Paris, Chez Claude Barbin, 1697. Contemp. red morocco.

2 vols. 12mo, front and figs. by Chauveau, red mor, fil., spines decorated, gilt edges. (Old binding). Superb copy of this rare and esteemed edition, the last given during Racine’s lifetime and the first containing the tragedies of Esther and Athalie. The issue is not specified.

Excellent binding by Boyet. Perfectly preserved.

From the library of J. -Ch. Brunet.

Sold for 4 150 F gold on May 29, 1894.

And 90 years later.

Bibliothèque Jacques Guérin – Hôtel Drouot, 29 may 1984. Ex. Chamillart.

The Lignerolles copy, described above under n°1652 of the Œuvres de Racine ; edition of 1702 with the arms of Chamillart is again sold in the Jacques Guérin public sale of May 29, 1984 :

N°81. Racine (Jean). Oeuvres. Paris, Compagnie des libraires, 1702.

2 volumes 12mo, citron morocco, blind-stamped fillets, gilt monogram in the corners, red morocco doublures, inner border, coat of arms, gilt edges (Binding of the time).

Famous copy of Madame de Chamillart, bound with her arms and her cipher. This refined bibliophile owned only a limited number of volumes, especially works of theology and history, which shows the interest of this copy.

It was sold for 480 000 FF (72 000 €) on March 29th 1984, 39 years ago.

Let us recall that the copy of 1697 identical to ours bound in contemporary morocco was sold at Lignerolles for more than double the price of the Chamillart copy (see above, n°1651).

A magnificent ruled copy of Racine’s Works in the first issue printed in 1697 bound in sumptuous contemporary Jansenist red morocco decorated with a large and superb gilt inner border.

Tchemerzine only mentions two copies in old morocco, among which the one of Jacques-Charles Brunet sold for 4 120 F OR in 1868, that is to say more than 400 times the price of a book of bibliophily which at that time was negotiated from 10 F OR.

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A Paris, chez Denys Thierry, m.dc.xcvii (1697).