THOU, Jacques-Auguste de (1553-1617). Historiarum sui temporis. Pars prima. Paris: the widow of Mamert Patisson ‘in officina Roberti Stephani’, 1604.
Large 2º (414 x 270mm). Estienne’s woodcut device on the title. (Small dampstain in the upper margin, and marginal wormhole.) Contemporary armorial vellum, covers centred with the gilt arms of Henri IV [cf. Olivier 2492, 7], gilt triple fillet border, flat spine gilt ruled in compartments each centred with a crowned H [Olivier 2492, 9] or a crowned fleur de lys, one compartment titled in manuscript in an early hand, gilt edges (some staining and yellowing, lacking the ties, corners of blanks lightly worn or dog-eared); housed in a modern morocco backed case. Provenance: presentation copy with the coat-of-arms of Henri IV gilt on the sides – manuscript title inscription ‘opus tamen perfectum ac utile’ – D. Lamy (small title signature) – ‘Le Bois Muralt’ (sold, Christie’s South Kensington, 18 January 2000, lot 468).
FIRST EDITION OF DE THOU'S MAGNUM OPUS. A MAGNIFICENT LARGE-PAPER COPY IN A CONTEMPORARY ARMORIAL AND ROYAL BINDING.
De Thou’s History of My Time reaches far beyond French national borders. It was written in Latin for dissemination throughout Europe and, as noted by Antoine Coron, it is in fact a history of Europe during its darkest period to date and may be compared to Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War or the Annals of Tacitus. Edward Gibbon acknowledged de Thou as one of his two greatest influences, along with David Hume.
In his foreword, written for Henri IV, de Thou declares that his goal is to speak the truth frankly, soberly, with moderation and tolerance. This honesty earned de Thou the strong condemnation of the Catholic authorities. This first edition, and the octavo edition that followed it, are the only ones to show the full text: History of My Time was deemed too favourable to Protestants, censored, and condemned by Rome which added it to the Index of Forbidden Books. Henri IV, who had granted his trusted advisor a personal privilege to publish, eventually asked for its interdiction.
This copy, on large paper and bound with the arms of Henri IV, was evidently intended as a gift, and bound soon after publication, before its double condemnation by Rome and the king. Antoine Coron, En français dans le texte, 81.