Paris, Barthélémy Alix, 1731.
2 parts in 1 volume 12mo [162 x 92 mm] of 26 pp., (3) ll. of table, 155 pp., (1) bl.l., (1) l. title, 218 pp., (6) ll. Contemporary bound in full red morocco, triple gilt fillet around the covers, large gilt-stamped arms in the centre, ribbed spine richly decorated, inner gilt border, gilt over marbled edges. Contemporary binding.
First edition of two major treatises by Bossuet.
Bibliothèque de Backer, n°998 ; Bulletin Morgand et Fatout, n°129 ; Rahir, La Bibliothèque de l’amateur, 336 ; Tchemerzine, I, 905 ; Brunet, I, 1139.
Bossuet was appointed tutor of the Dauphin in 1670 and the Traité du libre-arbitre is one of the works composed for the education of the future sovereign.
The subject in question deals with the ‘mean to grant our Freedom with the certainty of God’s orders’. The question of knowing whether there are human choices regardless of the sovereign grace of God had just divided Catholics in France into two groups: the Jesuits supported by the superior clergy as well as the King, and the Jansenists from Port Royal, in the minority but united around brilliant theological and intellectual authorities such as Arnault and Pascal. And yet, the years during which Bossuet was the tutor of the Dauphin are the ones which coincide with the Peace with the French Church (1668-1678). Besides, Jansenists were among the few people who did not clash with Bossuet, even if his situation at the Court did not allow him to show off the interest he had for the theology from Port-Royal.
Consequently the richness of the Traité du libre-arbitre mainly lies in the fragile but brave synthesis (Bossuet addresses to the future King of France after all), of two doctrines which are though fiercely opposed. This unknown text gives a fair insight into a period of official tolerance which is about to be defeated by the hardening of freedoms with regard to religion.
As for the Traité de la concupiscence, composed towards 1693, it reflects the subsequent period, troubled times during which doctrinal positions are much more rigid and customs a lot freer. Bishop of Meaux since 1681, listened by the Court which comes from Paris and from Versailles to attend his preaches, uncontested doctor from the Church of France, Bossuet attacks libertines, socialites, he vituperates against the lie of their soul and the vanity of their life. This text was supposed to be entitled Considérations sur les paroles de Saint Jean: ‘N’aimez pas le monde’ but Bossuet’s nephew, the Bishop of Troyes who wrote the preface of this edition, preferred the other more severe title.
The tie with Versailles remained until Bossuet’s declining years. He occupied a central position within the court of France; he was the King’s adviser during his councils and ordinary adviser during his State Councils.
“The conclusion of this brief study on Bossuet, one of the highest and most fertile geniuses of our literature, is to be borrowed from La Bruyère: “Orator, theologian, philosopher… Let us speak in advance the language of posterity: a Father of the Church. It is also appropriate to add in this place: a master of the French language who perhaps never had his equal, one of those to whom our country is most indebted for its universal literary magistracy. (Rev. D. Delafarge).
Prestigious copy bound in contemporary red morocco with the arms of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, nephew of the great orator and responsible for the publication of these tracts.
“Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1664-1743), nephew of the famous orator, became licentiate in theology, vicar general of Meaux and abbot of Saint-Lucien de Beauvais, at the death of his uncle, in April 1704; he was appointed bishop of Troyes in March 1716, but he obtained his bulls only two years later, in 1718; he resigned from his bishopric on March 30, 1742. The bishop of Troyes had inherited his uncle’s library, which he increased considerably”.
The present copy is referenced by Olivier-Hermal for the tools stamped on its binding (OHR, n°2299, fer n°3).
Bossuet’s first editions preserved in contemporary morocco bindings have always been very sought-after by bibliophiles.