CURIOSA – [BOYER D'ARGENS, Jean-Baptiste (1703-1771), attributed to.] Thérèse philosophe, ou Mémoires Pour servir à l’Histoire du P. Dirrag, & de Mademoiselle Éradice. The Hague [Paris: 1748].
2 volumes in one, 8º (204 x 121mm). Text printed within typographic border. 17 engraved plates including the frontispiece, one of these folding. (Folding plate with tears at the folds neatly repaired, mostly marginal light scattered spotting and light browning.) Contemporary red morocco, flat spine gilt in compartments, morocco label, sides with a gilt triple rule border and floral corner tools, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (spine ends, hinges and corners repaired, front free endpaper repaired in the inside margin). Provenance: J.M. (19th-century Dutch anonymous engraved bookplate with motto: 'Grypt alst rypt') – Bernhard Stern (bookplate).
VERY RARE PROBABLE SECOND EDITION BUT LONG THOUGHT TO BE THE FIRST, OF THIS ICON OF LIBERTINISM, ONE OF THE EARLIEST PORNOGRAPHIC NOVELS IN A EUROPEAN LANGUAGE; IT IS ILLUSTRATED WITH 17 ENGRAVED PLATES, ONE OF THEM FOLDING.
The novel, based on a true and scandalous story, is an account of the relations between Father Girard, a Catholic priest, and his penitent, Marie Catherine Cadière. Girard was eventually tried and sentenced in 1731.
The attribution to Jean-Baptiste Boyer d'Argens, now widely accepted, was first made by the Marquis de Sade in volume VII of the Nouvelle Justine (1797). The authorship was once ascribed to François-Xavier d'Arles de Montigny, an officer in charge of the French troops in Liège from 1745 and the first publisher of the book in 1748. For his part he was arrested and jailed on 1 February 1749.
The copy is complete with the 16 erotic engravings. An additional folded plate is bound in the second part; it features a sacrifice to Priapus, and is sometimes found in later editions as a frontispiece to the second part.
The copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France lacks one plate.
The printing history of the early editions of Thérèse is notoriously tangled: in order to baffle censors all early editions bear an undated The Hague imprint, and all early editions are known only by a handful of copies. This Paris edition was published in the same year as a Liège edition. Current scholarship (see Dutel and Moureau) gives priority to the Liège edition, but this Paris edition was long thought to be the first one.
Based on Moureau’s research in the Police archives, the two editions were published during the second semester of 1748, the first one in Liège, without illustration (these added later, according to him), and the second in Paris, with engraved erotic illustrations commissioned from Machelier, and the engravers Lempereur and the Prud'homme brothers.
A fine and rare copy in contemporary morocco gilt.
RBH and ABPC record just one copy sold at auction. Not in Nordmann. Dutel A-1072; Soultrait 18th century, 38; Moureau, ‘Thérèse Philosophe à l'école de la clandestinité’ in La Plume et le Plomb (2006), pp. 57-86; Pia Enfer, 1421 (lacks plate 7).