[CHATEAUBRIAND, François-René de (1768-1848)]. Essai historique, politique et moral sur les révolutions anciennes et modernes, considérées dans leurs rapports avec la Révolution françoise.
London: J. Deboffe, J. Debrett [and 4 others], 1717 [for 1797].
2 parts in one volume, 8° (227 x 137mm). 2 folding letterpress tables, errata leaf bound in at front. (2H2 with repaired tear into text, 2L2, 3D1, 3E1 and 4K1 remargined, this slightly affects shoulder note on 3D1, some light browning throughout and occasional soiling.) Half calf by Joseph Thouvenin, 1820 or slightly later, gilt spine with raised bands, spine directly lettered and dated, and signed ‘THOUVENIN’ near foot, uncut (light rubbing, lower joint weak). Provenance: Jules Frédéric (sold Brussels, Miette, 11-12 January 1952, lot 987; also with signed pencil note by Maurice Chalvet on front endpaper, stating that only 7 copies with false date are known).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, WITH TITLE DATED 1717 AND WITHOUT THE NAME OF THE AUTHOR.
Maurice Chalvet, Le Livre et l’Estampe no. 36, pp. 309-321, records 25 copies of this rare first edition, describing this as no.4 of 10 known copies of the first issue.
CHATEAUBRIAND'S FIRST BOOK, PRINTED IN LONDON DURING HIS EXILE.
Written in London, and completed in Suffolk, his Essai was printed in 1796 and released the following year. His biographer, Ghislain de Diesbach, underlines Chateaubriand's impartiality, all the more remarkable on the part of an aristocrat forced to escape and live in harsh conditions abroad. 'He was one of the first to understand that the history of the Revolution was still to be written, in spite of numerous pamphlets already published. (…) Even more appropriately, he expounded something that no-one would admit at the time, that one of the causes of this revolution was the revolt of the privileged classes' (Chateaubriand, 1995, p. 111).
This rather peculiar work, in which Chateaubriand appears somewhat estranged from the Christian faith, was a commercial failure. As he stated: 'C'est à la publication de l'Essai historique que je dois marquer le premier pas qui me fourvoya du chemin de la paix'.
A FINE COPY IN A CONTEMPORARY BINDING SIGNED BY THE LEADING BINDER OF HIS TIMES. The signature R.(ELIÉ) P.(AR) THOUVENIN appeared on works produced before 1820; after this date, it became THOUVENIN.