LA BRUYÈRE, Jean de (1645-1696). Les Caractères de Theophraste traduits du grec. Avec les caractères ou les moeurs de ce siècle. Paris: Estienne Michallet, 1688 [privilege leaf dated 8 October 1687]. 12° (159 x 90mm). [lx], 53-360, p. Ruled in red throughout. Michallet's monogram on title, woodcut opening initials and head-pieces. With privilege and errata leaves at end. Extra illustrated with engraved frontispiece portrait of the author by Drevet after St. Jean. (Some light spotting, P2 cropped at lower margin.) Red morocco by Trautz-Bauzonnet, gilt spine-lettering and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt and marbled edges, green silk marker, later gilt ex libris. Provenance: purchased from L. Giraud-Baudin, 1936.
FIRST EDITION, third issue, containing 418 'Characters'. While borrowing its philosophical stance from Theophrastus, La Bruyère's work was a deeply incisive moral commentary on the spiritually barren society of his own time, written in the most distinguished French prose. Although this is the third and last issue of the first edition, no copies of the first issue survive. 'Livres' is corretly spelt on p. 222; the privilege leaf is unaltered from the second issue, and does not record the length of ten years; the errata is printed on a separate leaf, recording the fault on p. 178. Two other editions appeared in 1688, followed by five others in the author's lifetime, which more than doubled the size of his work. Brunet III, 719; Cioranescu 37507; En français dans le texte 124: 'un des textes les plus fascinants du XVIIe siècle français'; Tchermerzine VI, 307-310.