BOUHOURS, le Père Dominique. Histoire de Pierre d’Aubusson grand-maistre de Rhodes.


First edition of the fascinating biography of Father Bouhours.

First edition of one of the heights of French prose. An attractive copy bound in contemporary limp vellum.

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Paris, Sebastien Marble-Cramoisy, 1676.

4to [246 x 174 mm] : 1 engraved frontispiece, (8) ll. including the title, the dedication and the notice, 351 pp., (27) pp. of table. 2 portraits and 1 view of Rhodes in full-page in the text. Owner’s stamp on the title. Bound in full limp vellum, some light stains on the front cover, flat spine, mottled edges. Contemporary binding.

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First edition of the fascinating biography of Father Bouhours who distinguished himself against the Turks defending Rhodes in 1480 and was appointed cardinal in 1489.

Bibliothèque de Backer, I, 1902 ; Barbier, Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes, II, 7756 (who only mentions the second edition from 1677); Blackmer 39 (who only had the late edition from 1691); Atabey 142.

Considered as one of the heights of French prose for “the purity” of the language, the present work achieved great success and was translated into English and German. It was still reprinted in the nineteenth century.

Father Dominique Bouhours (1628-1702) was held in high regard by Bossuet and by Boileau, by La Fontaine and St. Evremond. Even better: one day Racine sent him one of his plays and asked him to point out the grammatical mistakes.

Open-minded and high-spirited, Father Bouhours is considered, as we know, as the heir of Vaugelas. He had a vivacious mind even on his death bed, when he said, smiling at one of his relatives: “I have some scruples about the pleasure I get to die”.

“Our language owes him more than any writer, including Vaugelas.” E. Quélennec.

“Dominique Bouhours, born in Paris on May 15, 1628, entered the novitiate on September 7, 1644. He taught first the classics in Paris and rhetoric in Tours, and then he was made responsible for the education of the young princes of Longueville, and then the one of the Marquis de Seignelay, Colbert’s son. He died in Paris on May 27, 1702.“ (De Backer).

“As soon as he turned 13, Pierre d’Aubusson, born in 1423, joined the Emperor Sigismund at war with the Sultan Amurat II, and made his debut under the command of the famous Huniad. On his return from Hungary, he accompanied the Dauphin (since then Louis XI) to the siege of Montereau, then in his expedition against the Swiss ; he joined the Order of the Knights of Rhodes; distinguished himself against pirates from the Archipelago, and was raised to the Supremacy in 1470.

However, Mohammed II, after having overthrown the kingdom of the East, continued to threaten the city of Rhodes, who gave offence to his power, and in 1480 a huge Turkish fleet, carrying 100,000 soldiers, appeared in front of the island and landed. Then began one of the most memorable sieges ever mentioned in history. The grand master received five wounds there, fighting with heroic intrepidity.

Muhammad, at the head of an army of 300,000 men, swore the year after to take revenge for the insult that his force had just suffered, but death stopped him in the middle of his preparations.

Two years later, Zizim, Bajazet II’s brother, came to ask for political asylum to the grand master of Rhodes, who treated him as a prisoner, and finally handed him over to pope Innocent VIII. The pope, who had already given Aubusson the titles of ‘defender of Christianity’ and ‘shield of the Church’, had him dressed in Roman crimson in consideration of his services.

D’Aubusson died in 1503 at the age of 80, with the reputation to be one of the greatest men of his time.”

“This life of d’Aubusson is mainly concerned with his valour during the unsuccessful siege of Rhodes by the Turks in 1480, and much of it is based on Caoursin’s account. Bouhours was tutor to Colbert’s son.” (Atabey).

“Whilst this is primarily a life of d’Aubusson, Grand Master of the Knight of St. John at Rhodes, it also includes passages on other crusades against the Turks and includes accounts of the Lusignan and Savoyarde dynasties in Cyprus.”

The superb illustration consists of 1 engraved frontispiece by Grantel after Sevin which represents a full-length portrait of Pierre d’Aubusson, 3 full-page plates depicting a portrait of Muhammad II, a very nice view of the city of Rhodes and a portrait of Zizim, the son of Muhammad II, as well as vignettes and tail-pieces in the text.

An attractive very pure copy preserved in its contemporary limp vellum.

We couldn’t locate any copy bound in contemporary vellum to appear at auction in the last thirty years.

Provenance: stamp of the Library of the Princesse Luisa Publicola Santacroce on the title.

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BOUHOURS, le Père Dominique.