(London: G. Robinson, 1784). 187 x 114 mm. (7 3/8 x 4 1/2"). 2 p.l., ii, 225 pp. FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH.
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER'S THIN BLUE BOARDS AND PAPER SPINE. In a modern blue cloth folding box with black morocco label. ESTC T-1128. The expected wear to the temporary binding: paper flaking from spine, front joint cracked and tender, boards somewhat soiled, but everything still intact. Faint browning and foxing right at edges, otherwise an excellent copy internally, the text fresh and clean, with all of its ample margins preserved.
This is an unsophisticated copy in its original temporary binding of the first English edition of Voltaire's "Memoirs," published in the same year as the French version. Although he was one of the most influential leaders of the Enlightenment and a towering figure in French literature, in the present work Voltaire (1694-1778) writes a quiet, intimate account of the years 1733 to 1760, focusing on two of the most important relationships in his life--with the Marquise du Châtelet and with Frederick the Great of Prussia. Still, the book hardly escaped notice, being banned in Paris; the introductory letter here notes that seven booksellers had been jailed for distributing it. Most of the uproar was caused by Voltaire's unflattering portrait of the Prussian king and his criticism of the French monarchy. Émilie du Châtelet was arguably the most brilliant woman of her day; Voltaire declared that she was "a great man whose only fault was being a woman." In 1733, she and Voltaire retired to her chateau at Cirey, where they could study without the distractions of Paris. Together they tackled the works of Newton, which the Marquise translated into French for the first time, and accumulated a library of more than 21,000 volumes. Theirs was a calm, happy relationship, in contrast with the turbulent friendship between Voltaire and Frederick II, who made what the philosopher considered unreasonable demands on his time. The memoir ends while Voltaire was living in Switzerland, and he recounts with relish the freedom enjoyed in that republic. The "Memoirs" is not a common book to begin with, and is rare in a temporary publisher's binding, as here. (ST12487)
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PJP Catalog: 74.