LACLOS, Choderlos de. Les Liaisons dangereuses.
Amsterdam, et se trouve à Paris chez Durand Neveu, 1782.
4 parts in 2 volumes 12mo [165 x 97 mm] : I/ 248 pp. ; II/ 242 pp. ; III/ 231 pp. ; IV/ 257 pp., (1) p.
Bound in full contemporary marbled roan, flat spines decorated with gilt fleurons, lettering-pieces in red and green morocco. Contemporary binding.
The true first edition of the Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), the very first issue.
Ducup de Saint-Paul, Essai bibliographique sur les deux véritables éditions originales des Liaisons dangereuses, n°1 ; Brun, Bibliographie des Liaisons dangereuses, tirage A.
About 20 editions were published at this date but only the first two, bearing numbers 1 and 2 according to Ducup de Saint-Paul, belong to the first edition.
“This famous novel is a licentious plot, less original by its theme and its development than by the efficiency of the form chosen and by the intentions of Choderlos de Laclos. The epistolary genre, indeed, plays a very important part: in a context of social life where anything is about appearance and dissembling, the letter is the only possible way of sincerity, and thus the only possibility to tell the truth without being afraid of facing all the conventions.
Mrs de Merteuil, who officially passes herself off as a virtuous and excessively devout widow with all her acquaintances, reveals her true face in her correspondence with Valmont, without suspecting that once the rules of the game will change, this reality will ruin her. It is the same for Valmont.”
The choice of a correspondence is one of the key components of the licentiousness in motion, and of the indubitable disclosure of that same licentiousness: in this sense, one could say that both heroes are punished by what ensured their success.
“As soon as the work was published, it caused such a scandal that the author was blacklisted, debarred from the salons of the capital and threatened in his military career. Criminal, impious and blasphemer: those were the words used by the cream of society to heap abuse on the writer. And be careful not to think that the matter rested after the Revolution! During the 19th century, a new public outcry rose up against the work in question. It was even forbidden by the courts […] That being said, we should acknowledge one thing: that stubborn suspicion of the public against the book cannot fail to justify itself. Actually, nothing is more virulent than the ‘Liaisons dangereuses’”. (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, IV, 195).
A precious copy from the rare first issue, wide-margined, preserved in its contemporary decorated binding.
Provenance: ex libris Robert Moureau.