Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2013 Issue

The Curiosity Sale: Drouot, December 19, 2012

Thpic 2

pic. 2* - an instrumental binding.

This very day, he looked at my favorite item of the sale, a humble little book in its original wrappers, almost partly disbound. It is an in-16 volume of 72 pages only, printed in 1812 in Paris and baptized by Mr. Forgeot in the – as sumptuous as usual – catalogue of Pierre Bergé & Associés : An Anthology of Poetry for Confectioners. Pages are printed on first sides only, as they were supposed to be cut off. Each contains two or three short poems that, as the publisher wrote on the back of the title page, “ shall replace this year the sayings that usually come with candies.” The authors therein represented include Voltaire, Mlle Deshoulières and a few who hardly fit a child’s reading if you ask me, like Bussy-Rabutin or Mr. de Montreuil. The latter, for example, looks scornfully at an old lady who wants to be called “Mademoiselle”: No matter how old it gets, sniggers the poet, the Pont-Neuf (New Bridge, the oldest bridge of Paris, ndr) will always be called the Pont-Neuf. This little book (still a giant when compared to item # 83, a lovely edition of 30 mm x 20 mm, of... Tom Thumb !) has “ fortunately escaped the confectioner’s pair of scissors”, wrote Mr. Forgeot in the catalogue. And it sure looks sweet. It was sold for 900 euros.

Another book was pointed out by Mr. Chamonal as of an extreme rarity : Horloge Perpétuelle... by Hervier (Lyon, 1748). A small in-12 volume, very thin, a solar calendar for the year 1748 - a physician book (pic 2). “ The front cover itself will urge you to buy it ”, claimed the Mercure de France at the time it came out. The front cover ?! “This book is unique, said Mr. Chamonal. Not only are covers very rare at the time, but this one is what we call an instrumental-binding. In the catalogue, the expert explains : “ The plates are an instrument of calculation which use is explained inside the book itself.” The plates have been glued on regular end-papers - simple. “ A 18th century book with an instrumental-binding is almost nowhere to be found, said Mr. Chamonal. The National Library of France (NLF) has one copy, I guess.” As a matter of fact, the NLF used its right of pre-emption for this item after it had reached the price of 5,500 euros (before the commission). 

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