[SADE, Donatien Alphonse François, marquis de (1740-1814).] Justine ou les Malheurs de la Vertu. En Hollande: Chez les Libraires Associés [but Paris: J.V. Girouard], 1791.
2 volumes in one, octavo (216 x 135 mm). Complete with the half-title in volume 2. Engraved frontispiece by Carrée after Chéry. (Occasional very minor spotting in some margins.) Full burgundy morocco by Fouillet, signed, flat spine ruled and lettered in gilt, sides with gilt triple fillet border with small floral ornaments in the corners, gilt turn-ins (sides with light wear); later black morocco slipcase by Laurenchet. Provenance: one word annotation, in an early hand, in the bottom margin of volume 2, page 50.
FIRST EDITION OF SADE'S MOST INFLUENTIAL AND NOTORIOUS WORK. AN EXCEPTIONAL EXAMPLE OF THIS GREAT RARITY: a fresh, well-margined copy uncut with the original deckle edges. Justine is a greatly expanded and reworked version of a novella he had composed while imprisoned in the Bastille. It caused widespread outrage upon publication. Charles de Villers, a scandalised critic, consigned three copies to the fire, exhorting others to follow his example, and describing Justine as 'one of the strongest arguments against the unlimited freedom of the press' (quoted in Eros invaincu). With such a recommendation readers could not resist finding out for themselves, and Justine went through no fewer than six editions in the ten years before Napoleon ordered the arrest of Justine's anonymous author. Napoleon, in his Mémorial de Saint Hélène described Justine as 'the most abominable book yet engendered by the most depraved of imaginations'. But Maurice Lever, the great historian of Enlightenment literature, observed that Justine derives its power not from its superficial obscenity but from its uncompromising philosophical core: 'Justine scandalises, certainly, but above all it frightens. Its publication provoked a panic. Very quickly it was felt that Morality was not the only thing at stake, that the subversion reached far beyond obscenity, that the real danger lurked elsewhere. This is why contemporaries refused Justine the basic tolerance normally accorded to licentious publications. Justine was rejected wholesale, without appeal; it had to be annihilated; one had to flee from it as if from a barbarian invasion: it was a survival instinct'. The Rund-Nordmann copy included a one-leaf publisher's preface not found in any other copy, and evidently not integral to the edition. Dutel A-593; Eros invaincu 50; Gay-Lemonnyer II, 752; Lever Sade, pp.423-230; Pia Enfer 724.