Bulletin VII

A female grammarian

1. [ANON]. LETTRES DE MADEMOISELLE *** A Monsieur *** Professeur de Rhetorique Au Collége de ... en l’Université de ... Sur la Langue Françoise. A Berlin, Et se vend à Paris, Chez la Veuve Lottin, & J.H. Butard,  MDCCLVI [1756]. £850

FIRST EDITION. 12mo, pp. viii, 80; woodcut vignette on title and headpiece; clean and fresh throughout; in recent marbled wrappers.

Only edition of this rare grammatical treatise, one of very few published in the eighteenth century by (as distinct from for) women. 


Not only is this a guide to grammar, French usage, and orthography, it is also a defence of the female writer against the criticisms implicit, and sometimes explicit, in the many Grammaires des dames which had appeared over the years. The author contends that it is ‘messieurs les Sçavants’ who write badly, with their redundant letters, and propses a radical new orthography, based on this principle: ‘Penser bien, parler comme on pense, écrire comme on parle, voilà dans la balance du bon sens la vraie façon d’écrire. Vous ne trouvez pas cela dans votre orthographe, on le trouve en partie de celle des femmes’ (pp.3-4). 

To that end, she proposes alternatives to redundant endings (-nt at the end of plural verbs, for instance), and argues that we need as many as twelve different vowels, as five, and the use of diphthongs, accents, and the like, results in ambiguities which are ‘capables d’embarrasser le langage, soit parlé, soit écrit’. However, this is not to say that all the letters we have should be kept: ‘L’y est un caractere absolument inutile’.

The author, whose identity alas remains unknown, is clearly educated. The avertissement tells us that she is from a good family, and that she studied alongside her brothers, to the extent that ‘elle est parvenue à pouvoir passer pour une femme sçavante’.   

See Nadia Minerva, ‘Femmes grammairiennes? Les Lettres de Mademoiselle *** à Monsieur *** Professeur de Rhetorique [...] sur la Langue Françoise [1756]’, in Documents pour l’histoire du français langue étrangère ou seconde, 47-48 (2012); OCLC records just the BNF copy.

2. [CESAROTTI, Melchiorre]. IL PATRIOTISMO ILLUMINATO Omaggio d’un cittadino alla patria.  In Padova, a spese di Pietro Brandolese, 1797. £385

FIRST EDITION 8vo, pp. xliii, [i] advertisements; some light foxing throughout; unbound and stitched as issued.


First edition, and one of three issues printed in the same year of this defence of the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, by the poet, translator, and Ossianic enthusiast Melchiorre Cesarotti (1730-1808). 

Following on from his Istruzione d’un cittadino a’ suoi fratelli meno istrutti of the same year, Il patriotismo illuminato celebrates the advantages to the general public of both the French Revolution and of the arrival of Napoleon. While the earlier work, however, emphasises the value of equality under the law and of political freedom, the present work is more cautious, and addresses not the meno istrutti but the nobility, advising them to educate the people about democracy in a way that might avoid the worst excesses of populism. Taken as a whole, the two works can be seen as an attempt to reconcile the new republicanism with exisiting political ideas and traditions.  

Treccani gives this Padua printing as the first; outside the Continent, OCLC records copies at Illinois, Harvard, Connecticut, Michigan State, and the BL.

3. [FRENCH REVOLUTION] [MAURY, Cardinal]. GRAND'MESSE SOLEMNELLE célébrée en l’Église Notre-Dame le jour de Pâques 1790. [Paris,  1790]. £385

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. 52; dampstain to gutter throughout; in recent marbled wrappers.


A satire on the French Revolution’s enthusiasm for adapting the language and traditions of the Church for its own ends, this is the order of service for a splendidly Republican Easter Mass, celebrated at Notre Dame by Cardinal Maury, here styled as the ‘grand-chantre du manège national’. Introduced with an ‘Au nom de la nation, de la loi, et du roi’, this mass, the ‘dernier coup porté à l’aristocratie expirante’, starts with prayers to be delivered from the ‘hommes pervers pleins de tromperies’ (the aristocracy) as the worshippers approach the altar of the Constitution. We find pastiches of both liturgical and biblical texts “death has been absorbed in the victory of the revolution; o feudality, where is thy victory?”, as well as the continuous response “The constitution be with you / and with thy spirit”.   


OCLC records North American copies at NYPL, Northwestern, the Newberry Library, Duke, and Harvard.

4. [FRENCH REVOLUTION]. THOURET, Jacques-Guillaume. L’ORDRE ET LA MARCHE de la Députation Envoyée par l’Assemblée Nationale pour présenter la Constitution au Roi. [Paris], De l’Imprimerie de Tremblay,  [1791]. £185


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. 8; some browning and spotting; uncut in contemporary drab wrappers; slightly frayed at extremities.

Uncommon acoount of the presentation of the new revolutionary constitution to Louis XVI, describing the ‘spectacle extraordinaire’ of the cortege which took the constitution to the King, as well as Louis’ equivocal response. The pamphlet includes Thouret’s address to the King, the King’s promise to sign the constitution and not leave Paris, and the orders given to Lafayette for the guarding of the royal family. The author notes the ambiguity of the King’s response: ‘Il n’y a pas de doute maintenant, que le Rois n’accepte la constitution. Si so intention eût été de la refuser, il étoit libre de dire oui ou non, de partir ou de rester ... Il doit sentir tout ce que la nation a fait pour lui et il ne voudra pas une seconde fois s’exposer à perdre le plus beau trône de l’univers’.  

OCLC records copies at the British Library and the BNF only.

5. [GOUIN, Nicolas-Louis?]. PROCÉS CRIMINEL, Qui doit être jugé en 1799 au Tribual de Cassation de vingt-cinq millions de Français; CONTRE une Aventurière, nommée RÉVOLUTION, connue par ses crimes dans les quatre parties du monde. [s.l., s.p., 1799]. £250

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. 15, [1] blank; largely clean and fresh thoughout; in recent marbled wrappers. 


Only edition of this condemnation of the French Revolution for its crimes, possibly the work of the civil servant and anti-revolutionary conspirator Nicolas-Louis Gouin (c.1745-1825). The work charts the progress of the Revolution in June 1789 ‘au milieu d’un jeu de paume’, baptised by Talleyrand with Mirabeau as godfather, but fed only bile in place of milk. The education of the ‘monstre national’ was simple, with the declaration of the rights of man being its catechism, but reduced to four words: La mort avec l’égalité, la mort avec la liberté, la mort avec la fraternité. The results we know. ‘Tel est, malheureux Français, le monstre dévastateur qui règne en France depuis dix ans; tel est le criminel que je traduis devant vous, et qu’il faut que vous jugiez à mort, en cette année 1799, si vous ne voulez qu’il dévore le peu d’existence qu’il vous a laissé.

The attribution to Gouin comes from Michaud’s Biographie des hommes vivants of 1817. Part of a failed conspiracy in 1797, Gouin was exiled until 1816; on his return to France, he was reappointed to his earlier position as an administrator of the postal service.  

Outside France, OCLC records copies at Columbia, UCLA, the Newberry, Iowa, Yale, Indiana, and the BL.

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6. METASTASIO. OPERE SCELTE DELL’ABATE METASTASIO. Rivedute da Leonardo Nardini, ad uso degli studiosi della lingua italiana. Tomo primo [-secondo]. Londra: Presso A. Dulau & Co. Soho-Square. [Al prezzo di 8s. legato alla rustica.] [c. 1800]. £350

FIRST EDITION THUS. Two volumes, 12mo, pp. [iv], 284; [iv], 282, [2] index and advertisements; occasional light browning, but otherwise clean and crisp throughout; in contemporary tree calf, spine tooled in gilt with gilt-lettered black morocco label; some light wear, but still a good copy, with the book-plate of Lady Frances Bentinck on front paste-down of each volume.

Am attractive copy of this uncommon London edition of Metastasio’s works, edited by Leonardo Nardini and printed by Dulau ‘for the use of students of the Italian language’. Another London edition had appeared in 1796, but this Nardini edition became the best known, going through several reprints up to 1821. Dulau and Nardini were prolific publishers of French and Italian works in the early years of the nineteenth century; the present collection includes La Clemenza di Tito, as well as seventeen other dramas, fifteen cantatas, and four canzonette.   

Of this edition, OCLC records copies at the BL, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, North Carolina, and Case Western.

7. [NAPOLEON II]. CÉRÉMONIAL pour le Baptême du Roi de Rome. À Paris,  de l’Imprimerie Impériale, 1811. £395

FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. 21, [3] blank; some light browning in places; unbound and stitched as issued.

A good copy of the order of ceremony for the baptism of Napoleon II, François-Charles-Joseph Bonaparte (1811-1832).


The only son of Napoleon and Marie-Louise, Duchess of Parma, François was known from birth as the Roi de Rome, briefly reviving a title that had been out of use since Joseph II became Holy Roman Emperor in 1765. His baptism, on June 9, was not a modest affair. Announced by an artillery salvo at six in the morning, the ceremony was meticulously planned; we find details of the seating arrangements, the decoration of the church, the lighting, the timings (very precise), and the procession (not just the order, but the number of horses drawing each carriage), as well as the order of service for the baptism itself.

The whole service book is signed in print at the end by the Comte de Ségur (1753-1830), in his role as Grand Master of Ceremonies.   

OCLC records copies at the BNF and Harvard only.

8. [NAPOLEON]. RIFLESSI SOPRA LA RITIRATA DE’ FRANCESCI DA MOSCA Lettera d’un alemanno ad un francese Scritta nel Dicembre dell’anno 1812. Traduzione dal tedesco. Firenze, nella stamperia Alessandri, 1814. £195

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. 8; browned throughout due to paper quality;  in later marbled wrappers.


Very uncommon letter, ostensibly from a German to a Frenchman, on Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. The letter , whose German original we have been unable to identify (if of course there is one), is dated December 26, 1812, and is written in a response to the question of whether Napoleon’s retreat could be compared to that of the Greeks from Babylon under Xenophon. The anonymous author replies with a survey of famous retreats from antiquity, drawing on Plutarch in particular, arguing that Napoleon’s Russian retreat was considerably less honorable: it was ‘il più grandioso, è ‘i più funesto avvenmento politico, che sia accaduta sul Clobo’.  

SBN records just one copy, in Livorno.

9. [PADUA]. IN NOME DELLA REPUBBLICA FRANCESE una ed indivisibile la municipalitá di Padova... Padova, 28. Pratile Anno V della Rep. Francese, e I. della Libertà Italiana.    16. Giugno 1797. £285

4to, pp. 12; clean and fresh throughout; unbound as issued.


The arrival of Napoleonic troops in Italy in 1797 put financial strains on the cities in which they based themselves, which had to be met by emergency measures. This volume announces the ways in which extraordinary taxes were to be raised in order to support the French army based in Padua; not only was payment of regular taxes to be brought forward, but an extra tax was also also imposed. Details are given of tariffs, the methods and times of collection, and the various rebates to which certain classes of business, as well as the poor and the clergy, are entitled.

Not in OCLC or SBN.

10. SARRAZIN, Jean. TABLEAU DE LA GRANDE-BRETAGNE, ou Observations sur l’Angleterre, vue a Londres et dans ses provinces, de M. le maréchal-de camp Pillet; avec un supplément. Par M. Sarrazin. A Paris, de l’Imprimerie de P. Didot, l’ainé, 1816. £400

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. xii, 336, [1] advertisements, [1] blank; some foxing in places, but never heavy; in contemporary dark green boards, gilt lettered skiver label on spine; some light rubbing, but still a good copy.

First edition of this reworking of General Pillet’s rather unflattering account of the British, based on his time as a prisoner of war, here adapted and tempered by another French General, more sympathetic to his opponents, Jean Sarrazin (1770-1848).

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Pillet’s original work, L’Angleterre vue à Londres et dans ses provinces, had first appeared the previous year. Sarrazin, who had spent four years in England, attempts a more balanced look at the English nation, maintaining the structure, and even the chapter titles, of Pillet’s book, with the aim of providing ‘un excellent ouvrage en suivant les principes de la modération, et sur-tout le lois de la justice’. Sp, following Pillet, Sarrazin discusses the origins of French anglomania, London, national pride, the common law, the courts and constitution, the parliamentary system, taxes and finances, philanthropic organisations, the machiavellism of English ministers, the freedom of the press, the legal position of women, the preponderance of drunkenness, the Church of England, the treatment of prisoners of war (here Sarrazin recognised what Pillet failed to, that the admittedly poor treatment of French prisoners was born of political necessity, given the similar treatment of English prisoners by the French), the British relationship with Europe, theatres, public parks, manufacturing, and the banking industry. 

The Monthly Review, reporting on Sarrazin’s work, had this to say: ‘During a period of four years in England, his relation towards ministers was apparently hostile; but his eventual situations have sometimes been thought to countenance the suspicion of a silent sympathy. He certainly performs an acceptable service to this nation in undertaking a refutation of General Pillet’s ridiculously calumnious book; and he was qualified for the task by some extent of local observation, and by a quick perception: though his performance of it, after all, is occasionally of a doubtful character’.

Outside Europe, OCLC records copies at Cornell, NYPL, Florida State, Queens (ON), the State Library of New South Wales, McGill, and the Huntington.

© Edmund Brumfitt Rare Books 2017