PAMELA; OU, LA VERTU RÉCOMPENSÉE.
(Paris: De l'imprimerie de Plassan, 1821-22). 212 x 133 mm. (8 3/8 x 5 1/4"). Two volumes.
Very attractive quarter calf blind-stamped in "cathedral" style over marbled boards by Thouvenin (stamp-signed in gilt at foot of spine), corners tipped with green vellum, spine blindstamped with a design of gothic-arched windows, gilt titling, marbled endpapers and edges. Half title with ink inscription in French stating that this book was purchased at the sale of the library of the Duc de Coigny at Chateau de Franquetot on 24 April 12. Occasional insignificant smudges or spots of foxing, the paper a little on the inexpensive side, otherwise an appealing copy with virtually no signs of use.
This is an early 19th century French edition of Richardson's first major work, offered here in a well-preserved unusual contemporary binding and with intriguing provenance. Samuel Richardson (1679-1761) was a printer who loved to write letters and who, at the age of 50, began writing novels using the epistolary form. His major works are important stepping stones toward the modern novel. Day says that "Pamela is the first great character creation of English prose fiction. As much as we may dislike her prudential morality, we must recognize here a complete human being." The work initially appeared in French in 1741, shortly after its original printing in English. The unusual binding is typical of the fine work produced by Joseph Thouvenin (1779-1834), the eldest of three bookbinder brothers. Ramsden describes Thouvenin as one of the three great French binders of the Empire and Restoration periods (Simier and Purgold are the others), and the Walters Art Museum catalogue says that "in his heyday, . . . he was the giant among Paris bookbinders." Deriving its name from the use of design motifs taken from gothic architecture, the so-called "Cathedral Binding" (or "Cathedral-Style Binding") was fashionable in England and France for about three decades, beginning ca. 1810. In France--as here--the design was usually blocked, while in England it was typically accomplished with gilt tooling. Thouvenin is sometimes credited with popularizing the style. The provenance of our copy is distinguished: it was apparently in the library of the family of the duc de Coigny (1737-1814), who was Maréchal and Peer of France. Although the duke himself was not alive to read this edition, it likely was part of his descendants' library, remaining on its shelf until purchased by a collector at the sale of family books nearly a century later. (ST12949)