Letters for all occasions

1. ALBERT, Jean Baptiste. LE SECRÉTAIRE FRANÇAIS, a l’usage des Allemands qui désirent écrire avec goût et justesse. A Leipsic, Chez Baumgaertner, 1819. £350

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FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. [vi], 406; some lightish foxing throughout; in contemporary boards, paper label on spine; binding worn but sound.

Uncommon guide to French letter-writing for any German who wants to do so with taste and precision, in any circumstance, by the Leipzig French teacher Jean Baptiste Albert.

 Dedicated to Duke Leopold Friedrich of Anhalt-Dessau, the book opens with a statement of the importance of etiquette, and of the various rules to be observed in writing to members of court: appropriate writing paper is a must, as is the use of envelopes, and the impoliteness of stamping a letter addressed to someone of higher rank is impressed upon the reader, who is also, more prosaically, given the forms of address for every order of royalty. Albert encourages his student to avoid writing on the verso if possible, but if one absolutely must, care must be taken only to start writing at the same height as on the recto. There are several similar strictures, and it is clear that they matter.

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The bulk of the book, however, is taken up with templates of letters for particular circumstances. We have petitions to the Empress of Russia and the minister of justice (about a man imprisoned for three months under a false accusation - a subject that seldom cropped up in my French classes), and letters to ambassadors, cardinals, and the prefect of police (about a lost wallet). The much larger second part is concerned with more personal letters: birthday and new year wishes (to every relation imaginable); consolation of a friend on the death of his uncle, or son; to a friend on ‘un silence réciproque’ (this is a recurring theme - several letters either reproach friends for not writing or apologise for not having done so oneself); to congratulate a friend on his promotion to Field Marshall, or on his marriage; declarations of love, or longing, or suspicions of being forgotten; and even a letter offering asylum to a friend who may be obliged to flee his country’s civil war.

Little is known of the author. The title-page tells us that he was a member of the Paris Athenaeum, and he had previously published a Manuel à l’usage de ceux qui desirent se perfectionner dans la language francaise (Halle, 1807).

OCLC records copies at Leipzig, Fulda, Bamberg, Munich, and the German National Library, with no copies outside Germany.


Jesuit poetry

2. BERNARDI, Giovanni Antonio S.J.. CARMINA.  Bononiae, Typis Ferdinandi Pisarri. MDCCXV [1715]. £385

FIRST EDITION. Small 4to, pp. [38], 394, [1] errata, [1] blank; numerous engraved vignettes and tailpieces; aside from some very occasional browning, clean and crisp throughout; in contemporary vellum, title in ink on spine; some light marking, but a good copy, with the book label of Pietro Buoninsegni (dated 1814) on front paste-down.

First edition of this substantial collection of poems on literary, moral, and religious subjects by the Padua Jesuit Giovanni Antonio Bernardi (1670-1745).


The poems range from elegies to epigrams, all in Latin, and include reflections on the relative merits of Virgil and Ovid, a response to Jesus’ statement that he had come not to bring peace but the sword, elegies in praise of Rose of Viterbo and Rosalia of Palermo, an ode to sleep, and poems on death, enthusiasm, and the journey from Venice to Constantinople. The volume also includes a number of sermons in verse, on subjects including the teaching of the classics as preparation for theology, as well as odes and epigrams on smutty poetry, Aquinas, alchemy, Lot’s wife, and other subjects.

Bernardi’s Carmina were reprinted in 1720.

OCLC records four copies outside continental Europe, at Loyola, Brown, the College of the Holy Cross, and Sophia University in Japan.


Lille proverbs

3. [BLOCQUEL, Simon-François]. PROVERBIANA, ou Receuil des Proverbes Les plus usités et les plus saillans, avec leurs signification précise. A Lille, Chez Blocquel. L’an qui refuse muse [c.1812]. £300

FIRST EDITION? 16mo, pp. 128, [16] Calendrier grégorien pour l’an MDCCCXIII; with hand-coloured engraved frontispiece; some browning in places throughout, occasional ink stains to head, not affecting text; in contemporary brown wrappers; some loss to spine, and wear to extremities.

An unsophisticated copy of this uncommon collection of proverbs, printed in Lille by the prolific publisher, printer, and editor Simon-François Blocquel (1780-1863).


The first half of the book gives close on 400 French proverbs, each with a brief explanation: avoir un pied de nez, for instance, is to be confused at a failure to accomplish something; avoir vu le loup is to be experienced, and so on. The second part, from page 87 onwards, offers a sermon in proverbs (or proverbs in the guise of a sermon), and then a more detailed explanation of the origins of 22 proverbs (loosely construed to include phrases such as poisson d’Avril).

It seems that Proverbiana went through a number of editions; the date for this printing (here given as L’an qui refuse muse - helpfully defined on page 13) is often given as 1815, but the presence of an 1813 calendar at the end of this copy suggests that this is earlier.

Outside continental Europe, OCLC records copies at SUNY Binghampton, the Newberry, and Cleveland Public Library.

A Scottish novel in France

4. FERRIER, Susan Edmonstone. L'HÉRITAGE, par Miss Ferriar; traduit de l’Anglais par le traducteur des romans de Sir Walter Scott. Tome Premier [-Cinquième]. Paris,  Lecointe et Durey, 1824. £500


FIRST FRENCH TRANSLATION. Five volumes, 8vo, pp. [iv], 296; [iv], 286; [iv], 301, [1] blank; [iv], 295, [1] blank; [iv], 299, [1] blank; occasional light foxing, but generally clean and fresh throughout; uncut in contemporary pink wrappers, printed paper labels on spines; some light wear, but still a lovely copy.

 A very good copy, in contemporary wrappers, of this rare French translation of The Inheritance, the second novel by the popular Scottish writer Susan Edmonstone Ferrier (1782-1854), translated by the French writer Auguste-Jean-Baptiste Defauconpret (1767-1843), best known for his translations of the novels of Walter Scott.

The Inheritance, while not as great as a success as Ferrier’s first novel, Marriage, nonetheless remained popular throughout the 19th century, and is, as Cassandra Phillips notes in her critical edition, ‘a novel that reveals much about nineteenth-century Scottish notions of class, gender, and nation’; it tells the story of a young innocent sent as heir apparent to a Scottish estate, and her various entanglements. ‘The Inheritance ... contains familiar elements of nineteenth-century fiction: the choices facing a young woman in a male-dominated society; the satire of fashionable life; and even ‘gothic’ elements such as dark family secrets, intrigue and blackmail. Yet beyond the generic building blocks we are presented with a unique and accomplished work of fiction’ (Young). It was published not under Ferrier’s name, but under “the author of Marriage”; this French translation, published in the same year, is the first to mention her by name. A later Swedish translation also appeared, in 1836.

See Cassandra Phillips, A Scholarly Edition of Susan Ferrier’s Inheritance, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2006, and Ronnie Young, Introduction, in Ferrier (ed. Young), The Inheritance, Kennedy & Boyd, 2009; OCLC records copies at Munich and the National Libraries of France, Poland, and Scotland.


The pros and cons of juries


5. [HANGARD, Jean-Baptiste]. SI L’INSTITUTION DU JURY CONVIENT A LA SUISSE. Ouvrage dans lequel on trouvera le tableau complet de la jurisprudence criminelle des Cantons de la Suisse, et celui du jury tel qu’il est pratiqué en Angleterre, en France et dans les autres pays où il est en usage. Par M *** Jurisconsulte. Lausanne, H. Fischer, 1819. £385

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. [iv], 120; marginal dustsoiling and some foxing; somewhat dog-eared; uncut in contemporary drab wrappers; shabby but sound.

Uncommon essay on the reform of criminal trials in Switzerland, by the Swiss lawyer Jean-Baptiste Hangard, who focuses on whether the institution of juries, as practised in England, France, and elsewhere, would be a natural fit for the Swiss justice system.


Hangard notes that the faults in Swiss criminal justice had long been acknowledged, and that steps were being taken towards reform in several cantons, making this the perfect time to examine a more fundamental examination of the system. He examines the development and current state of Swiss criminal justice, both nationally and at a cantonal level (noting that some cantons were without criminal laws). The following chapters then examine various forms of jury, detailing the history and functioning of jury trials in England, Scotland, and post-revolutionary France, and their relative merits and disadvantages, before a conclusion in which Hangard examines the ways in which juries could be applied to the Swiss system, and the prerequisites for such an incorporation; he argues that there is no popular sentiment in favour of juries, and that the liberty that they ensure is especially valuable only in monarchies where democratic institutions are weaker (the obvious exception, the United States, is no counter-example as ‘le jury est né avec elle’).

OCLC records just one copy outside continental Europe, at Cambridge.

English for translators

6. HAUßNER, Friedrich Wilhelm. UEBUNGSSTUNDEN IN DER ENGLISCHEN SPRACHE oder Sammlung auserlesener englischer Aufsätze, Geschichtchen und Anekdoten zum Uebersetzen ins Deutsche mit beygefügten Erklärungswörten.  Leipzig, bey Gerhard Fleischer dem Jüngern. 1806. £350

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. viii, 384; very light uniform browning but otherwise clean and fresh; final blank removed; in contemporary marbled boards, handwritten paper label on spine; some light wear.

A good copy of this uncommon collection of English stories, anecdotes, and puns, arranged and annotated as practice examples for translation into German.


The preface opens with the statement that this sort of book can teach the reader two separate things: firstly, the English language; and secondly, and just as importantly, a smattering of historical and cultural knowledge about the mores and habits of the English. The extracts are not exclusively English, but include stories of Alfred the Great, London prostitution, drunken mechanics, and the Duchess of Northumberland. The modern reader might be tempted to wonder if Haußner’s acquaintance with the English language was more than a nodding one; one example is this dialogue ‘between M. Apicius and Darteneuf in the Elysian fields’:

Dart. Alas! poor Apicius - I pity thee much, for not having lived in my age and my country. How many good dishes have I eat in England, that were unknown at Rome in thy days!

Ap. Keep your pity for yourself. - How many good dishes have I eat in Rome, the knowledge of which has been lost in these latter degenerate days!

Haußner had previously published a Phraseologia anglo-germanica (Strasbourg, 1798).

OCLC records two copies, at the Newberry Library and the Charles University in Prague.


Rare issue

7. NOLLET, Jean Antoine. ESSAI SUR L’ELECTRICITÉ DES CORPS ... A la Haye, Chez Jean Neaulme, MDCCXLVII [1747]. £300

FIRST EDITION, Reprint. 8vo, pp. xvi, 183, [1] avis au relieur; with four folding leaves of plates; clean and crisp throughout; uncut and entirely unopened in contemporary drab wrappers; some light wear, and loss to spine at head and foot, but still a good copy.

A very clean copy of this rare Hague reprint, the year after the first (and not to be confused with Guérin’s true second edition of 1753), of Nollet’s classic work on electricity.

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Although Nollet’s electrical theories were widely opposed at the time, he is now recognised as a pioneer on several fronts. He was the first Frenchman to experiment using the Leyden jar, and one of the first to associate lightning with electricity. The present work anticipates some of the observations found in his Lettres sur l’Électricité of 1753, which contained his correspondence with Franklin; heavily based on Nollet’s own experiments, the Essai describes several of his discoveries, discusses the types of material susceptible to electrical charge, examines the behaviour of non-conductors in air and in a vacuum, and articulates Nollet’s theory of effluence and affluence.

The four plates depict some of Nollet’s apparatus; ignoring the advice to the binder, they are found at the end of the volume.

Bakken p. 92; Mottlay pp. 181-82: Wheeler 329 (for first edition); outside continental Europe, OCLC only records three copies of this printing, at MIT, the University of Washington, and the British Library.


Arithmetic made useful

8. SAVARY, A. ARITHMÉTIQUE THÉORIQUE ET PRATIQUE, appliquée a la géographie, a l’histoire et aux premiers élémens de la physique. Divisée en trois parties. Paris, Chez Maire, Selligue, et chez l’Auteur, 1829. £225

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. xii, 271, [1] blank; some foxing and browning throughout, and somemarginal dampstaining; uncut and partly unopened in the original printed wrappers; stamp on upper cover; somewhat frayed and worn, with unobtrusive library deaccession stamp on upper cover.

Uncommon introduction to arithmetic and its applications, as far as we known the only work by the French schoolmaster Savary.

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Over 25 chapters, Savary explains all the basic arithmetical functions, geometric proportions, measures (both pre- and post-revolutionary), money, the metric system, and the rule of three. Then the second half of the volume is taken up with practical arithmetic, with 100 exercises on each chapter, applying the theory to calculations of, among other things, the lengths of rivers, distances between towns, the distribution of population, the relative productivity of different regions and periods, and other questions relating to physical and human geography. ‘On pourra, je crois, faire un usage utile du nombre immense de mes problèmes et de mes exercises, en obligeant chaque élève d’une même classe à travailler sur un exercise ou un problème particulier, lorsqu’ils auront déjà reçu plusieurs leçons sur la théorie’ (pp. x-xi). This copy also has a single handwritten sheet of exercises and solutions.

OCLC records copies at the BNF, University College London, and the American University in DC.

Beautifying a theatre

9. [TEATRO DELLA PERGOLA]. DESCRIZIONE DELLA NUOVA PITTURA del R. Teatro della Pergola di proprietà della Nobile Accademia degl’ Immobili riaperto la sera del 26. Dicembre 1814. Firenze, Presso Giuseppe Fantosini e figio. 1814. £285

FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. 12; clean and fresh throughout; in modern green decorative boards.

A lovely copy of this account of the paintings done for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence by the Florentine-Milanese painted Luigi Ademollo (1764-1849).


Ademollo had previously been in charge of the interior decoration of the theatre (arguably Italy’s oldest remaining opera house) shortly after his move to Florence in 1789, and the Accademia degl’Immobili, who were responsible for the building, clearly thought his work of sufficient quality that he was recommissioned in the summer of 1814 to ‘abbellire con nuova Pittura’ the theatre, as part of a plan to ensure that it remained one of Italy’s most prestigious. This report details Ademollo’s work, which follows the neoclassicism of the times, with its themes of Ancient Greece and Rome, Greek myths, and depictions of Justice and Peace.

OCLC records two copies, at the BNF and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.

Against natural religion

10. [TOLERATION]. QUATRE PRECIS contre l’incredulité. A Clermont-Ferrand, De l’Imprimerie de Pierre Viallanes. MDCCLXXVII [1777]. £425

FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. [ii], 17, [1] blank; some browning to extremities, otherwise clean and crisp throughout; uncut and partially unopened, stitched as issued.

A good copy of this rare set of four brief anti-enlightenment essays, anonymously published but each replete with its own imprimatur from the religious and secular authorities of Clermont-Ferrand, and printed in that city.


The four Précis, on toleration (or rather, tolerantisme), the Système de la Nature, the systematic mistrust of religion, and deism, are all similar in tone; the first equates tolerance with the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at once. ‘Do they believe that it is indifferent to be in truth and in untruth, in reality or in a chimera? What a strange way of thinking! Is it human? Or animal?’. The second Précis is an attack on Holbach, although he is not mentioned by name. Again, the author’s focus is on the contradictions inherent in the Système de la Nature - that system is absurd in assuming that the order of the universe had emerged from disorder and chance, and contradictory when it argues that nature is the cause of everything. In the third Précis, the author reflects on the religious basis of political decision-making and conflict, while the fourth highlights the absurdity of deism, which the author equates with natural religion. The aim of the work is ‘que le Lecteur Déiste la tire lui-même, & que voyant clairement que le Déisme n’est que mensonge, il s’unisse sincérement au Catholicisme, qui n’est que VERITÉ.’

OCLC records copies at Wisconsin and the BNF only.

© Edmund Brumfitt Rare Books 2017