A Dozen Diminutive Volumes in Absolutely Lovely Bindings


(Paris: Pierre Didot l'aîné, 1795). 140 x 83 mm. (5 1/2 x 3 1/4"). 12 volumes.

VERY PLEASING CONTEMPORARY RED STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, HANDSOMELY GILT, IN THE STYLE OF BOZERIAN, covers bordered by dogtooth and plain gilt rules enclosing a frame of interlocked circles, flat spines divided into compartments by plain and decorative gilt rules, two compartments with a myriad of small tools emanating from a central circlet, two compartments with stylized star tool at center and calligraphic flourishes at corners, gilt titling, turn-ins with gilt Greek key roll, all edges gilt. One flyleaf with paper flaw, faint yellowing on a few leaves, but AN ABSOLUTELY LOVELY SET, the decorative original bindings very lustrous and virtually unworn, and the text bright, clean, smooth, and fresh.

Attractively printed by Didot, this is a little gem of a copy of the works of Montesquieu in bindings decorated in the style of, and with tools attributable to, Bozerian le jeune. The frame of interlocking circles was a favorite of the younger Bozerian; it can be seen, for example, on a copy of "Essai sur les Révolutions" held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and on a copy of Petrarch in a binding very similar to the present one (and signed by le jeune), which sold as lot #246 in the Foyle sale. Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the Enlightenment; among his many contributions to political thought was his notion of the separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, a plan adopted by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. His masterpiece, "De l'Esprit des Lois" ("The Spirit of the Law"), sets forth this separation of powers and other methods of preventing governments from becoming despotic. It occupies volumes I-VII of the present set, and is followed by "Lettres Persanes" ("Persian Letters," volumes VIII-IX); the novels "Temple de Gnide" and "Arsace et Isménie," with the "Essai sur le Gout" (volume X); "La Grandeur des Romains et de leur Décadence" (volume XI); and a collection of letters and "Pensées" (volume XII). Such was the printing genius of Didot that the text--even in this duodecimo edition with a small typeface--looks spacious, has comfortable margins, and provides easy, pleasant reading.

Keywords: Didot