Combining the Most Honored French Woman Writer of the Period with Gravelot Illustrations, Distinguished Provenance, and a Fine Binding


(Londres [Rouen]: s.n. [J.-N. Besongne], 1748). 212 x 142 mm. (8 3/8 x 5 5/8"). vi, 121 pp. FIRST EDITION.

VERY PRETTY CONTEMPORARY DARK RED MOROCCO, GILT, covers with dentelle frame formed by alternating sunflower and tulip tools, oblique lily tools at corners, raised bands, spine compartments with central lily stalk, floral sprigs at corners, gilt lettering, gilt-rolled turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Frontispiece and two tailpieces (each repeated once) after J.-B.-M. Pierre, title vignette by Durand, and six large headpiece vignettes after Gravelot, all engraved on copper by Louise de Montigny Le Daulceur. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate and label of Parisian bookseller Pierre Berès; title page with ink owner inscription of Félix Ziem (see below) dated 1872. Cohen-de Ricci 328. ◆Lower cover with older repair to fore edge obscuring a small portion of gilt at edge of border, a touch of rubbing to corners, other isolated trivial imperfections, but still a fine copy, clean and fresh internally, in an original very decorative binding showing almost no wear.

This charming volume was written by the most highly honored French woman writer of the day, illustrated by a leading Rococo artist, and bound in an elegant style. Poet and playwright Anne-Marie Fiquet du Boccage (1710-1802) was encouraged in her career by Voltaire and by the influential Academician Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle, who was a regular at her Sunday salon. The present "Earthly Paradise"--an interpretation, as the title indicates, of Milton's "Paradise Lost"--made Boccage's reputation and won the praises of Voltaire and Fontenelle. It also did more to elevate Milton's reputation in France that the more literal translations of his work. She dedicated it to the Academy of her native Rouen, which had boosted her career and her confidence by presenting her with its first prize for poetry in 1746--an extraordinary accolade for a woman to receive in 18th century France. Boccage went on to have a play produced by the Comédie Française, where it had a successful run, and to be elected to the Rouen Academy and that of Lyon—all feats remarkable for her gender. Ray considers Gravelot (born Hubert-Francois Bourguignon, 1699-1773) "among the most charming as well as the most professional of all illustrators," and notes that "the elegance of Gravelot's designs has been remarked by nearly every critic who has written about him." We have not been able to identify the binder of this book, but the gilding, in addition to being gracefully executed, features such delightful tools as sunflowers with tiny surprised faces. Our copy was once owned by the artist Félix Ziem (1821-1911), a painter of the Barbizon School renowned for his seascapes and orientalist landscapes, who is considered one of the precursors of impressionism. It later passed through the hands of legendary antiquarian bookseller and collector Pierre Berès (1913-2008).

Price: $2,900.00