• <b>Results from Bonhams’ sale of <i>Fine Books & Manuscripts Featuring Exploration and Travel</i></b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Columbus. De Insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis. Basel, 1494. SOLD for $751,500
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cook in Tahiti. [Playbill]. [Germany, c.1840.] SOLD for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Aa, Pieter van der. Naaukeurige versameling der gedenk-waardigste zee en land-reysen. Leyden, 1706-8. SOLD for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Dürer. Underweysung der messung [and two more]. Nuremberg, 1525-8. SOLD for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cortes, Hernan. A Pleito signed by Antonio de Mendoza in the case of Hernan Cortes. 1542. SOLD for $8750
    <b>Results from Bonhams’ <i>The Air and Space Sale</i></b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Russian Kholod 5D67 HFL Rocket Engine. SOLD for $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Neil Armstrong Apollo Era Training Glove. SOLD for $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Full Scale Sputnik-1 EMC/EMI Lab Model. SOLD for $847,500
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> SOLRAD GREB Spy Satellite Engineering Dummy. SOLD for $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Soviet LK-3 Lunar Lander Model. SOLD for $25,000
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio!</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio!</b>
  • <b>Sotheby’s Paris: Books & Manuscripts. 30 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> MARCEL PROUST. Du côté de chez Swann. Grasset, 1913. First edition. One of 5 copies on Japan paper, inscribed by the author to Louis Brun. Est. €400,000 - 600,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> Saint-Exupéry. <i>25 Autograph Illustrated Letters to his Friend Charles Sallès</i>. Est. €30,000-50,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> French Revolution, 1793. Déclaration des droits de l’Homme. 2,55 x 1,30m. A monumental wallpaper poster of the 1793 version, with hand-colored highlights. Unique copy. Est. €100,000 - 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> GIAMBATTISTA PIRANESI. <i>Vedute di Roma</i>, 1748-1775. 107 etchings. An exceptional copy, printed and bound before 1780. Est. €50,000 - 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Paris, Oct. 30:</b> Picasso, Pablo -- Fernando de Rojas. LA CÉLESTINE. [PARIS, EDITIONS DE L'ATELIER CROMMELYNCK, 1971.] One of the 30 copies hors commerce (n° X). 66 original etchings by Picasso. Signed. Est. €30,000 - €35,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b><br><i>The Centenary Edition of the Works of Ian Fleming</i>, one of 26 lettered sets, 18 volumes, London, 2008. $25,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> William Faulkner, <i>The Marble Faun</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed to Dorothy Wilcox by Faulkner & Phil Stone, Boston, 1924. $18,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Maurice Sendak, <i>Where the Wild Things Are</i>, first edition, signed & inscribed to William Archibald, New York, 1963. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Anne Frank, <i>Het Achterhuis</i>, first edition, in first state jacket, Amsterdam, 1947. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Roald Dahl, <i>Charlie and the Chocolate Factory</i>, first edition, signed, New York, 1964. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b><br>Ray Bradbury, <i>Fahrenheit 451</i>, first limited edition bound in Johns-Manville Quinterra, New York, 1953. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Benjamin Graham, <i>The Intelligent Investor</i>, first edition, in original dust jacket, New York, 1949. $4,500 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Anna Sewell, <i>Black Beauty</i>, first edition, inscribed, London, 1877. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Arthur Conan Doyle, <i>A Study in Scarlet</i>, first American edition, Philadelphia, 1890. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> James Fenimore Cooper, <i>The Last of the Mohicans</i>, first edition, two volumes, Philadelphia, 1826. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Amelia Earhart, <i>20 hrs. 40 mins. Our Flight in Friendship</i>, limited first edition, signed, New York, 1928. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14:</b> Philip K. Dick, <i>World of Chance</i>, first edition, signed, London, 1956. $3,000 to $4,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2013 Issue

Le Rat du Châtelet, Of Rats and Men

45bfd995-3174-4a47-b3fc-ad57e83a68a9

Le Rat.

 Just the other day, I came across an unusual book: 51 pages only, complete though incomplete, almost unknown but enjoying a certain popularity among a circle of connoisseurs and, last but not least, written by an anonymous rat.

 

This book is a political satire entitled Le Rat du Châtelet, or The Rat of Le Châtelet. It was published in 1790 by an anonymous writer—the title page doesn’t mention any printer either. A few months after the French Revolution (July the 14th, 1789), it was probably safer this way. Our writer transforms himself into a rat to crawl inside Le Châtelet, the scariest jail of Paris. At the time, this prison—now a mere square—sheltered the most vicious criminals; to such an extent that when the outraged people of Paris freed all prisoners on July the 13th, they made an exception for the 350 inmates of Le Châtelet. Famous people had been incarcerated (some even tortured) there before the Révolution, including François Villon—who allegedly wrote his masterpiece Frères humains inside—, Clément Marot or Louis-Dominique Cartouche. During the troubled times of 1789, the most virulent prisoners were still taken there, so our rat was crawling on thin ice. Let’s follow him into the dark underworld of Le Châtelet.

 

The bottomless pit

 

Traveling Le Châtelet with our rat is like visiting the kingdom of Hades: here, a lamenting ghostly Bankrupt lost in a remorseful loneliness; there, a stinking dormitory full of petty thieves with scabies; over there, some innocent citizens, victims of the guilty zeal of some newly converted revolutionaries. “Alas!” cries out our rat. “In which hands have we left the guides of our peace, liberty and rights? Who are those people, responsible for our safety?” Meet this man who, standing in a public gathering, carelessly uttered a word that sounded offending to the new Parisian Guard. He was called an aristocrat, arrested by a patrol and sent to Le Châtelet where Judge Dubois condemned him to suffer “three days of yoke,” and “to be whipped and marked, then sent to the galleys.” Fortunately, our inmate had connections, his sentence was commuted to a two-year imprisonment—lucky him! These stories might be true, or not. Names quoted in the book do not seem to fit reality, apart from the one Nicolas de Satou, identified as the aforementioned Judge Dubois.

 

It was dangerous to criticize the revolutionary government but crawling rats seldom bite. Refusing to be seen as a petty slanderer, our rat promises to name some monsters of infamy and others freedom mongers... shortly—meaning, in the second part of his diary. “If this first part happily entertains the reader, then his curiosity shall be rewarded by a second part.” Thus speaks the rat in the author’s note. But this second part never saw the light. Why? God only—and probably a little wet rat— knows the answer. Satirical writings were common at the time. Many were printed that were much more virulent. Let’s admit it, our rat wasn’t the most outspoken rodent of his time. But he knew what he was talking about as far as slang was concerned; and that’s the reason why this book is still sought-after nowadays.

 

Slang from Villon to Cartouche

 

At one point, our rat crawls among the rabble. “Was there any regout (problem)?” asks a prisoner to a newcomer. “Yes,” answers the other, “ I was fait (caught) while working the bauche (breaking a house); the marque (housemaid) crible au charron (shouted ‘thief’), bride the lourde of the longue (closed the door of the room), the mistringues (police) aboulent (arrived), they trimbalent (took me) to the cardeuil (police commissioner), they rapiote me (questioned me), but poitou (in vain); I had hidden my peignes (false keys) and my camelotte (booty). I did not reconnoblé (speak).” Some parts of this discussion remain unintelligible nowadays, even to a French-speaking person— and that was exactly the point. “Slang is the language of the purse robbers,” wrote Pierre Richelet in the 1706 Elzevir’s edition of his dictionary. “They express themselves in a way that made them unintelligible to anyone outside their cabal.” As soon as the 13th century, the police identified several slang words such as mouche (fly) for spy, or rossignol (nightingale) for picklock. In 1455, a bunch of criminals called the Coquillards (Scallopers, as they usually wore a scallop to join the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in order to cheat and steal from them), were arrested. They revealed some of their secret words such as envoyeur (sender) for murderer, or vendangeur (grape-picker) for thief. François Villon had some acquaintances with the Coquillards from whom he borrowed the slang words of Le jargon et jobellin dudit Villon, first published in 1498.

 

Closer to our book, slang enjoyed a peak of popularity after Louis-Dominique Cartouche* was arrested in 1721. A few books were written about the life of this notorious gang leader of Paris that featured slang—the most significant one being the poem Le Vice Puni ou Cartouche (1725), a parody of Voltaire’s La Pucelle by an anonymous author later identified as Nicolas Racot de Grandval, who appended a slang dictionary of some 300 terms to his work. Cartouche was eventually sent to the Abbey-of-climb-it-with-regrets (the gallows, according to the said dictionary), but slang had become fashionable in the Parisian salons, and was more and more used until it was fully recognized by linguists in the 19th century.

 

Since the days of Cartouche, slang has been thoroughly studied and Le Rat du Châtelet is quoted in many serious works on the subject. Was our rat a thief himself? Did he serve some time at Le Châtelet? We will probably never know. The passage of his book related to slang is only four pages long, but happens to be well documented. It also features words such as abouler (to come quickly—still in use nowadays) or loffe (fool, that sounds like the backward-slang for fol—mad). These testimonies are here used in their historical context—that’s what makes them unique, and so valuable.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen. October 26, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Redouté, Pierre Joseph, and Claude Antoine Thory. <i>Les Roses</I>. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1817–1824. Est. $225,000 to $325,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Trew, Jakob Christoph. <i>Hortus Nitidissimis Omnen Per Annum Superbiens Floribus</i>… Nuremberg: Johann Joseph Fleischmann, 1750 [–1786]. Est. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Trew, Christoph Jakob, and Benedict Christian Vogel. <i>Plantæ Selectæ</i>…[Nuremberg:] 1750–1773; Supplement, [Augsburg:] 1790 [–1792]. Est. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: The Magnificent Botanical Library of D. F. Allen. October 26, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Jacquin, Nikolaus Joseph von. <i>Plantarum Rariorum Horti Caesarei Schönbrunnensis Descriptiones Et Icones.</i>Vienna; London; Leiden, 1797–1804. Est. $180,000 to $250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Oct. 26:</b> Weinmann, Johann Wilhelm. <i>Phytanthoza Iconographia; Sive Conspectus Aliquot Millium, Tam Indigenarum Quam Exoticarum</i>… Regensburg, 1735–1737–1745. Est. $120,000 to $180,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection. Part I: Music. 26 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Beethoven, Ludwig van. Autograph Manuscript of the Canon "Ewig Dein" Woo 161, signed at the end ("...[Ewig] Dein...Freund Ludwig Van Beethowen"). Est. £120,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Brahms, Johannes. Autograph Manuscript of the "Geistliches Wiegenlied", Op.91 No.2, for Contralto, Viola And Piano, the original version of 1864, signed and inscribed at the end by the composer. Est. £200,000 to £250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Chopin, Frédéric. Autograph Manuscript of the Opening of the Étude Op.25 No.2, in A-Flat Major, signed and dated ("Paris Ce 28 Avril F. Chopin"). Est. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Fine Autograph Letters and Manuscripts from a Distinguished Private Collection. Part I: Music. 26 October 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Haydn, Joseph. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jos Haydn[Paraph]"), to the Baden Choirmaster Anton Stoll, 30 July 1802. Est. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Verdi, Giuseppe. Autograph Working Manuscript of a scene from Ernani. Est. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London Oct 26:</b> Verdi, Giuseppe. Highly Important Series of Thirty-Six Autograph Letters Signed to The Librettist Salvadore Cammarano, written between 1844 And 1851, the greater part unpublished and unrecorded. Est. £250,000 to £300,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions