Paris, chez Estienne Michallet, premier Imprimeur Du Roy, 1696. Avec Privilège de Sa Majesté.
12mo of (16) ll. , 52 pp., 662 pp., xliv pp. of Discours à l’Académie Françoise, (2) ll. of table, (1) l. of privilege. Ruled copy.
Full black Jansenist morocco, blind-stamped fillet around the covers, spine ribbed, inner gilt border, decorated gilt paper lining and endleaves, edges gilt. Bound in contemporary black Jansenist morocco.
163 x 96 mm.
Last edition printed during La Bruyère’s lifetime, who died on the night of 10-11 may 1696, the ninth published and corrected by La Bruyère.
It consequently contains the text definitively adopted by him with his final corrections and served to fix the text of later editions.
“Between 1688 and 1696, La Bruyère published eight editions of the ‘Caractères’, with changes and additions in each. Bringing them together in the same library is of some interest and allows the bibliophile to follow the different phases through which this remarkable work passed. The eighth and ninth editions contain at least twice as much text as the first”. (Le Petit).
“La Bruyère has no equal when it comes to isolating the word, the gesture, the ‘tic’ that suddenly betrays an entire character. He is better the closer he gets to the concrete. Not that he seeks singularity for its own sake: it is indeed common passions and general types that he is aiming for, but always taken in the moment of their manifestation and within the framework of a particular society: not the abstract man, but the courtier, the grande dame, the magistrate, the financier, the preacher of the century of Louis XIV on the beginning of its decline.
It is true that he did not set out to provide a historical account, even though his depictions of manners reveal the growing domination of money, which was in the process of breaking down the frameworks and traditions of old society. But La Bruyère’s concrete and, one might say, photographic realism, so well served by an agile and incisive style, marks a transition between the great classics and the 18th century: in the end, it takes us closer to Montesquieu and Voltaire than to Molière”.
With huge margins (height 163 mm), this ruled copy is preserved as new, in its strictly contemporary black morocco binding, a particularly rare and refined state.
From Patrice Madden’s library with handwritten ex libris.