• <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Single leaf from a paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Mainz, 1455, in a copy of Newton's <i>A Noble Fragment</i>. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Immanuel Kant, <i>Critik der reinen Vernunft</i>, first edition, Riga, 1781. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Hans Holbein, <i>The Images of the Old Testament</i>, with 94 woodcut illustrations, first edition in English, Lyon, 1549. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Samuel Johnson, <i>A Dictionary of the English Language</i>, first edition, London, 1755. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, first edition, London, 1668.<br>$6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Antonio de Guevara, <i>The Dial of Princes</i>, London, 1568.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> <i>Oraciones de los SS. Mysterios Gloriosos y Dolorosos</i>, manuscript in Spanish, Brussels, 1676.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Jan Nieuhoff, et al., <i>An Embassy from the East-India Company... to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperour of China, </i>London, 1671. 4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Moses Maimonides, <i>Ha-Higayon... Logica</i>, first edition, Basel, 1527.<br>$800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Petrus Berchorius, <i>Liber Bibliae moralis</i>, fourth edition of the first volume, Cologne, 1477.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Niccolò Machiavelli, <i>The Florentine Historie</i>, first edition in English, London, 1595. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Sir Philip Sidney, <i>The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia</i>, third edition, London, 1598. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>SAXTON, Christopher. <i>The Travellers Guide being the best Mapp of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales</i>. London, [1583, but c.1716].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>VISSCHER, Claes Jansz. <i>Novissima et Accuratissima Leonis Belgici</i>. Amsterdam, Claes Jansz Visscher, [1611-1621 or later].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Decima Asie Tabula</i>. Ulm, Lienhart Holle, 16 July 1482.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>WIT, Frederick de, and Gerard VALK. <i>Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accurata Tabula</i>. Amsterdam, Gerard Valk, [c.1690-1700].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Astronomicum Caesareum</i>. Ingolstadt, Peter Apian, 1540.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>CASSINI, Jean-Dominique. <i>Carte de la Lune</i>. Paris, Jean-Dominique Cassini, 1787.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Geographicae enarrationis libri octo</i>. Argentoragi, 1525.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>[SAXTON, Christopher]. <i> [An Atlas of England and Wales]</i>. [London, Christopher Saxton, 1579].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> Commission des sciences et arts d'Egypte. <i>Description de l’Égypte</i>… Paris, Imprimerie impériale - Imprimerie royale, 1809-1828.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> CHURCHMAN, John. <i>To George Washington President of the United States of America this Magnetic Atlas or Variation Chart is humbly inscribed by John Churchman</i>. Philadelphia, 1790.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Tipus Orbis Universalis</i>. Vienna, Johannes Camertius, 1520.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LORIOT, A[uguste], [after] Nicolas LANE. <i>[Pocket globe]</i>. London, 65 New Bond Street, 1809.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Grooten Atlas</i>. Amsterdam, Joan Blaeu, 1662-1665.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>INGEBORG BRUN, Emmy. <i>Mars efter Lowell’s Glober 1894-1914</i>. Denmark, [c1915].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LUTHER, Martin. <i>Der vierde Teil aller Bücher vnd Schrifften des thewren seligen Mans</i>. Gedruckt zu Jhena, Durch Christian Rödinger, 1556.
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2016 Issue

18th Century Paris - Mercier and (the not old yet) books

Aa97efbb-fdb0-4900-82f7-c3f93cc9cd02

Editor's Note: This is part II of a series begun in the August issue of Rare Book Monthly.

 

Welcome back to the dark and smelly streets of the French capital in the 18th century, with the same guide, Mercier’s second edition of Tableau de Paris (Amsterdam, 1782)—but with a different focus. Let's talk about what really matters, books when they were not old yet.

 

Paris was, according to our guide, the city in the world where you could find “the most books”. But the vast majority of them, he says, were insignificant and “the only good—and consequently prohibited—ones” were not to be found at official booksellers’ but with the peddlers. Thus, the “mouchards” (informers) constantly harassed these itinerant salesmen, who, being illiterate, had no clue about what they were selling. “They would hide the Bible under their coats should the lieutenant of police ban it”, underlines Mercier. When caught, they were sent to the Bastille, or exposed to popular anger in yokes. But this illegal trade was in fact “orchestrated by police officers”, who picked up their own dealers, thus “earning more than thirty peddlers together!” Corruption and hypocrisy were at their peak, especially in the Gazettes (newspapers), which were filled with “official lies”. Yet, you could see dozens of people sitting in public places, avidly reading them. It had become so hard to find a honest book printed in France that “people abroad have lost all consideration for our books”, laments Mercier. “The barriers raised against free speech have deteriorated the quality of even entertaining books.” Thus, coming across a book printed “with privilege”, Mercier knew “that it contains nothing but political lies.” Let’s remember that his own book was published in Amsterdam, and that the government persecuted him after its first publication—he went abroad to put together the second edition because some details about Paris had offended the police of books.

 

The “royal censors” were responsible for what they authorized to be published, and so they took no chance. “Worried and pernickety to the excess, they end up approving insignificant works only.” Censorship and the fear of consequences led to absurd situations such as a theologian from La Sorbonne attesting: “Nothing hurts the Christian faith”... on the front page of the Coran. Meanwhile, the good manuscripts surreptitiously left France to make the Dutch or Swiss printers rich.

 

 

Painfully learning Latin

 

Illiteracy was galloping in Paris. And learning how to read and write could be quite painful. In the “petites écoles” (elementary schools), physical abuse was common practice. “There you can see tears running down the cheeks of our children, you can hear them moaning, as if pain was made for kids and not for grown-ups. Some teachers, whose mere sight frightens us, mistreat the first age of life.” Providing they were Catholics, these brutes could “be rude and tough, and beat innocent creatures in the name of Jesus Christ.” Contrary to what most people think nowadays, people who could read Latin were few at the time—a good education was a rich man's privilege. The language of prestige, it was used for the inscriptions on public monuments. “What? Not a thought for common people? A water carrier, while filling up his bucket at the fountain, will forever gaze in wonder at two verses in Latin he can’t decipher? His own country refuses to communicate with him, even at the fountain!

 

Many “bourgeois” sent their kids to college, so they could learn Latin. But it only filled their heads with unrealistic aspirations, driving them to idleness and desperation, says Mercier. Looks like Latin had already started to become “useless” in 1782! Yet, best selling books were written in Latin. Of course, they were religious books. The breviaries sold up to 20 or 30,000 copies! “Famous authors, can you say the same?” asks Mercier. Even the priests could hardly read Latin fluently, yet they bought breviaries in four “gilt-edged” volumes, before “casually leaving one volume on their mantel—and the booksellers ask for no more, as they make fortunes with these works in Latin that sell more than those of Voltaire or Rousseau.” These books were a source of pride, and consequently of ridicule in Paris. “A devout old lady has a copy of the Euchologue magnificently bound, and has it triumphantly carried to the church by her lackey; she wants everyone to behold the golden binding.” Meanwhile, the priests walked the streets displaying a breviary under their arm, moving their lips as if silently reciting it, and staring at the skies in bliss. But laughter was the most efficient weapon against bigotry, and “ever since we’ve started laughing at it, the habit of praying in public has almost disappeared.

 

From Scratch

 

All day long, the “chiffoniers” of Paris roamed the streets, picking up torn pieces of rag on the dirty pavement with their hooks. “Have I just uttered the vile name of chiffonier?” Mercier asks. “Do not look away, this material will become the ornament of your book shelves, and the precious treasure of humanity. Our “chiffoniers” lead the way for Montesquieu, Buffon and Rousseau.” All these rags were indeed turned into paste, and then into the paper upon which the most brilliant ideas could claim for eternity. “Blessed be the chiffoniers!” triumphs Mercier, unaware that most of us would be sniffing this smelly and thick paper more than 200 years later!

 

Of course, the most valuable works were not the most sought-after. If you asked a “book renter” the works of the famous author La Harpe, he would beg your pardon before sending you to a luthier, mistaking the “harp” with “la Harpe”. He only sold “torn and dirty books”, which thereby proved their popularity. The disdainful critics should visit the book renters to have a look at what people really like, suggests Mercier; so should the writers, to make sure their works were there available—“and if they are not, or if the copies of your books are too neat, just tell yourself: I have too much talent, or not enough.” These books were not for sale, but for rent - for a day or two. Some were so fashionable that the renter had to split them in two or three to satisfy the demand, renting each part separately and by the hour! These book renters knew nothing of their books but their backs—just like most librarians, says Mercier, and a few princes, whose book collection was usually more useful to others than to themselves. What kind of books did they rent? “The naive and sincere ones, those deprived of all haughtiness and academic jargon”—the ancestors of sitcoms, so to speak.

 

Needless to say, you hardly came across a torn copy of the Almanach des Muses there. This compilation of poems (usually bound in full morocco, they are quite valued by collectors today) came out once a year, in January. The compiler begged the authors for their work all year long, and was consequently called “the mendicant friar”. He was somewhat making a bouquet of flowers, except that he did not care much about the coordination of colours or scents; he mingled them together with no taste, just caring about the size of his final bouquet. People commonly offered a copy of the Almanac to their friends during the first two weeks of the year—and forget about it.

 

Poor Rousseau

 

A literary—and to some extent, a philosophical—war then opposed the two main pillars of French philosophy, Voltaire and Rousseau; and Mercier clearly sided with the latter. Though preaching social progress, Mercier didn't like the “sect of the encyclopaedists” led by Voltaire, whom he described as a “prisoner of pride.” A living legend, the “author of La Pucelle” had left Paris years ago to live at Ferney, far from censorship and his enemies. But just before he died in 1778, he came back in triumph to Paris—Mercier talks about “the triumph of Voltaire”, and he says it was orchestrated by the notorious “sect of the encyclopaedists.” During the ceremony, the “dwarfs of literature came to meet him, saying: “You’ve praised my work!” But the old man had forgotten about their names and the certificates of immortality he had delivered them - he had never spared with those.” But the many visits he received soon exhausted him, and his life was “shortened by his dear friends—the apotheosis killed the poet.” Mercier adds: “Ever since the triumph of Voltaire, the sect of the encyclopaedists has been in a shaky state; what will become of it?

 

Well, the true triumph of this “sect” was yet to come—it was later called the Révolution (1789). Mercier didn’t know about it, of course. But as Voltaire and Rousseau were rivals, so were many of their respective admirers. Mercier once went to visit his hero, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in Rue Plâtrière, Paris—“the most noisy and uncomfortable street of Paris, and the one with the most bad places.” But Mercier was soon overwhelmed with sadness: “How painful it was to realize that the author of Emile had become mentally sick! I sighed when he told me about his alleged enemies, of the universal conspiracy set against him. I was saying to myself: “What? The man I’ve so much admired is now a maniac?” Indeed, at the end of his life, Rousseau thought he was followed in the streets, that people all over Europe were spying on him, and wishing him evil—from the King of Prussia to the nearby vegetable vendor. This portrait of Rousseau, lost both in his madness and in the middle of the dirty city of Paris seems to sum up the painting of Paris drawn by Mercier—wild, intensive, scary at times but always fascinating. It's just like hearing the faded murmurs of “our brothers who lived before us”, and who, God bless them, wrote and printed many books.

 

 

 

T. Ehrengardt

 

The book: No name (Louis-Sébastien Mercier). Tableau de Paris (Amsterdam, 1782). Four in-8° volumes. The first edition came out anonymously in two in-8° volumes (Neuchatel, chez Samuel Fauche), in 1781. The printer was arrested by the police of books but refused to give away the name of the author, who apparently surrendered to the police. He then went to Switzerland in order to put the second edition together. Tableau de Paris has become a classic, and it later came as a twelve in-8° volumes between 1782 and 1788 (Amsterdam).

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Lawbook Exchange. Trials for Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Rapes, Sodomy... 4 vols. London, 1764. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> An Enquiry Concerning the Liberty, And Licentiousness of the Press. New York, 1801. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tavern Licence Granted to John Swan by Mayor James Duane, 1789. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> First edition of Story's, Commentaries on the Constitution. 3 vols. Boston, 1833. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Manuscript Law Dictionary. Repertorium Universale, Amandola, Italy, c.1750. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Magna Carta. London, 1556. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Hemard. Code Civil, in an extraordinary binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Two Accounts of the Murder of Mr. John Hayes. London, 1726. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Robinson, Boardman. Mr Justice Precedent. 1914. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Five volumes of Italian Legal Code in miniature. Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1901-1903. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tartagni. Alexander de Imola in Prima(m) (et) Secunda(m)... Venice, 1514. In a contemporary chained binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Catalogue 85. Recently Acquired Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions