LOMÉNIE DE BRIENNE, Étienne Charles de, Cardinal (1727-1794) – François-Xavier LAIRE (1739-1800). Index librorum ab inventa typographia ad annum 1500... prima pars [–secunda pars]. Sens: the widow and son of P. Hardouin Tarbé, 1791. 2 volumes, 8° (210 x 136mm). Half-titles. (Final leaf in vol. I laid down, gathering H in vol.I with mainly marginal waterstaining, lower margin of first half-title shorter.) Contemporary half calf and marbled boards, partly uncut (rebacked, old spine of vol. I relaid). Provenance: ‘Exemplairede l’abbé Campion de Persan, avec les prix, les noms de acquéreurs et des notes de la main’ (old inscription on verso of half-title) – Nicolas Yemeniz (1783-1871, silk manufacturer and bibliophile, Lyon, bookplate).
Laire's catalogue remains a standard in the field of incunabula. Laire, a minim friar, and, from 1786 onwards, librarian of Loménie de Brienne, describes the latter's collection of 1,332 incunabula, including four block books, two copies (both on paper) of the Gutenberg Bible, and the Fust and Schöffer 1459 Psalter and Durandus, both on vellum. There were also fifty-six manuscripts. Loménie was one of the great French collectors of his time, an achievement overshadowed by his political role. Successively Bishop of Condom, Archbishop of Toulouse and Sens, in 1788 Cardinal (though in 1791 Pius VI deprived him of the biretta), and, at one time, Minister of Finance, he became one of the grave-diggers of the Ancien Régime by attempting accommodation with the Revolution, dying in prison by his own hand. Finances forced him to dispose of his collection by the means of this finely printed catalogue: its preface, in French, states that the collection was to be sold en bloc, and at auction if after six months no single buyer could be found. This occurred on 12 March 1792 in Paris. Laire's catalogue has a place of ‘permanent importance in the history of the study of incunabula’ (Haebler, Handbuch der Inkunabelkunde, 1925). The Loménie catalogue details for the first time the characteristics of the early printed book: its composition, signatures, etc., all enumerated and indexed. PRICED and with buyers' names throughout. Bigmore & Wyman I, p.415; Blogie II, 18; North 354; Pollard & Ehrman 212.