ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778). Du contrat social, ou principes du droit politique. Paris: de l'Imprimerie de Didot jeune, l'an IV, 1795.
2o (338 x 253 mm). PRINTED ON VELLUM. Roman type (Didot's gros Romain). 128 leaves. Engraved portrait of Rousseau (mounted), ink and wash drawing (see below).
BINDING: contemporary gold-tooled red morocco by JEAN-CLAUDE BOZéRIAN (signed at foot of spine, Culot signature 2), Greek key border on covers (Culot roulette 22) with fer 14 at corners, the preceding enclosed within roulette 14 on the outside and a single fillet and roulette 30 on the inside, spine richly tooled in mille points style in five compartments, lettered in two, turn-ins decorated with roulette 18, pale blue watered-silk linings, gilt-stamped with roulette 40, edges gilt (very minor rubbing to extremities); later morocco-edged slipcase.
Provenance: Genard, of Grenoble: morocco bookplate -- Léon Rattier: morocco bookplate; sale, Paris, Bibliothèque de MM. A. Fould & L. Rattier 1ère partie, 17-23 June 1920, lot 152 -- [Nicolas Rauch 1963] -- Otto Schäfer: sale, Sotheby's London, 27 June 1995, lot 170 (to Quaritch).
UNIQUE COPY ON VELLUM, IN VERY FINE CONDITION, WITH AN ORIGINAL DRAWING BY ANATOLE DEVOSGE. A misfit throughout his life, Rousseau was among the first to react against the prevailing rationalism of the Enlightenment and to advocate a return to intuition and the "natural state". In the Contrat social, his greatest work, first published in 1762, Rousseau expressed in passionate terms his deeply held republicanism. Although his sense of history was faulty and his logic often shaky, the work proposed a number of creative solutions to political and economic problems. Its famous opening line became a rallying cry for the revolutionaries of 1789. This finely printed édition de luxe by Pierre-François Didot is evidence of the work's status by the mid-1790s as the "bible of the revolutionaries" (PMM).
The portrait of Rousseau, also printed on vellum, is derived from the bust by Houdon and was engraved by P. G. Langlois after the younger Gault (proof before letters). The ink and wash drawing (180 x 135 mm.) is signed A[natole] Devosge and dated 1796. Devosge, who came from a long line of painters, succeeded his father François as director of the École des Beaux-Arts at Dijon.
This appears to be the only vellum copy known. Brunet IV, 1425 (citing a single copy printed on vellum); Dufour (1925) no. 158; Monglond, La France révolutionnaire..., iii, 374; Van Praet, Bibliothèques publiques IV, p. 41, no. 38bis (referring to a copy sold in 1799, but unlocated).