BOSSUET. Traitez du libre-arbitre, et de la concupiscence. Ouvrages posthumes. Paris, Barthélémy Alix, 1731.
2 parts in 1 volume 12mo [182 x 93 mm] of 26 pp., (3) ll. of table, 155 pp., (1) bl.l., (1) l. of title, 218 pp., (6) ll. Some browning on preliminary leaves. Bound in contemporary green full morocco, triple gilt fillet on covers, gilt arms stamped in the center of covers, armorial pieces at the corners (gilt dolphin), spine ribbed also decorated with the same armorial pieces, red morocco lettering pieces, endpapers with a domino pattern, gilt 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,
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 if 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 following period, troubled times during which doctrinal positions are much more rigid and customs a lot freer. The Bishop of Meaux since 1681, listened by the Court which comes from Paris and from Versailles, 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 title, which is more severe.
The tie with Versailles remained until Bossuet’s declining years. He occupied an essential place within the court of France; he was the King’s adviser during his councils and ordinary adviser during his State Council.
A precious copy bound in contemporary green morocco with the arms of Etienne Dauphin, prosecutor in charge of the elections of Mâcon. « The family Dauphin, coming from Burgundy, has been known for a long time in Macon. Antoine Dauphin was a municipal magistrate in 1467. Nicolas Dauphin was the King’s prosecutor in charge of the elections, in 1483. This hereditary office was passed on in his family until 1789. » (A. Arcelin, Indicateur héraldique et généalogique du Maconnais, pp. 135-136). Etienne Dauphin, son of Claude Dauphin, prosecutor in charge of the elections, married Marguerite Dumont in 1710.
Bossuet’s first editions preserved in contemporary morocco bindings with arms have always been much sought after.