Some Antiquarian Books from French Bookseller Librairie Thomas-Scheler
By Michael Stillman
We have just received two catalogues from Librairie Thomas-Scheler, neatly strapped together, all the way across the ocean from France. As they are recent arrivals to America, they do not yet speak English, a challenge for those whose knowledge of the French language does not extend beyond American high school. Mon Dieu! My French is as bad as Google's translation tool. I will try to roughly describe a few items in American, but for those who speak French, please just order a copy of these catalogues.
While the catalogues are in French, not all of the books are, so those who speak English, or those who collect Americana, take note. After all, much of today's United States and Canada were once French possessions, so much of that early history was written in French.
The first catalogue is Quelques livres anciens choisus pour le Grand Palais. I believe this is roughly "Some ancient books chosen for the Great Palace" (though Google translate tells me it's the "Great Palate"). The Great Palace evidently had some great books. For fear of losing my American audience, I will start with Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. This is a first edition, third issue (also known as the first Bohn issue) of this magnificent illustrated work on America's natives. George Catlin set out in the 1830s to study and draw America's various tribes, as he understood that contact with the quickly expanding white settler community would soon change their traditional culture forever. He was determined to preserve it, and perhaps he succeeded as much as anyone could. Item 28. Price on request.
Item 29 is a piece of French Americana: Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France...by Pierre Francois Charlevoix. This is a history of New France, then the largest part of North America. Charlevoix was a Jesuit missionary who explored Canada, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi region, at the peak of France's power in the New World. This first edition was published in 1744. €15,000 (Euros, or approximately $20,200 US dollars).
Item 35 is La Constitution Francaise, the French Constitution, as presented to the King by the National Assembly on September 3, 1791. This constitution was a short-lived step in the French Revolution, effectively dead within a year. It provided for a legislative assembly to make laws, but still granted the weakened King the power of veto. A year later, the monarchy was overthrown, and within a few months, the King would be off to the guillotine. This attempt at compromise discarded, the nation would fall into the Reign of Terror. €28,000 (US $37,700).
The second catalogue is entitled Le Gout de l'Amateur, which means something in English. This one is a bit harder for l'Amateur in speaking French to follow, but appears to be a collection of books that were once owned by celebrated collectors of very long ago. For a better explanation, contact Bernard or Stephane Clavreuil of Librairie Thomas-Scheler at (33) 01 43 26 97 69 or Basane@thomas-scheler.fr.