Cooper's First Sea Novel, in a Gorgeous Binding Done for Duke William of Brunswick-Lüneburg


(Paris: L. Daubry, 1825). 170 x 103 mm. (6 3/4 x 4"). Three volumes. First French Edition (text in English).

REGAL CONTEMPORARY BEIGE MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID, covers with gilt frame and inlaid cornerpieces of pink and burgundy morocco in floral designs, ARMS OF WILLIAM, DUKE OF BRUNSWICK, at center, inlaid in red and green morocco and lavishly gilt, raised bands, spine panels with graceful design of flowers and acanthus leaves, gilt lettering, gilt-ruled turn-ins, all edges gilt. Front pastedowns with bookplate of Wilhelm, Herzog zu Braunschweig, printed in colors and embossed with gilt; title pages with ink stamp "Prinz von Braunschweig." Spines darkened to tan, head panels with traces of brown residue, possibly from library labels, boards faintly soiled at edges, but A FINE SET with no signs of use, inside or out.

This is an exceptionally fine copy, with distinguished provenance, of the first Paris printing of a nautical adventure by a great American writer who enjoyed unusual popularity in France. Set during the American Revolution and first printed in 1823, "The Pilot" has for its protagonist a real-life American naval hero, John Paul Jones. Cooper (1789-1851) had himself worked as a commercial seaman and served in the U.S. Navy, and his firsthand knowledge of both the technical aspects of seamanship and the day-to-day realities of life at sea lend a ring of authenticity to his sea novels, of which this was the first. According to Encyclopedia Americana, "Cooper may be said in 'The Pilot’ to have created a new literary type, the tale of adventure on the sea . . . . Smollett had already discovered the racy humors of seamen, but he had seen little else in their calling; it remained for Cooper to capture for fiction the mystery and beauty, the shock and thrill, of the sea, which in his pages has much of the proud pomp of Byron's ocean." Cooper spent the years 1826-28 in Paris, where his literary reputation gained him access to the best salons, and where he became a close friend of the marquis de Lafayette. Given the ornate decoration and the quality of materials and execution, this binding was very likely done by a Parisian workshop as a commission for Duke William of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1806-84), the last member of his family to rule the duchy of Brunswick. Although he was the ruler of the Duchy of Brunswick for more than 50 years, he preferred to spend his time enjoying the life of an aristocrat and left most of the official business to his ministers. He also failed to produce a legitimate heir (though he had a number of illegitimate children), and ended the House of Brunswick's rule over the duchy.

Price: $6,000.00