RARE FIRST EDITION, FIRST PRINTING (“A”) OF LACLOS’S MASTERPIECE; ONE OF THE EARLIEST PSYCHOLOGICAL NOVELS AND AN INFLUENTIAL TEXT OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
“The later 18th-century novel, preoccupied with the understanding of the tensions and dangers of a society about to wake up to the Revolution of 1789—the Great Revolution to which the modern French state traces its origins—is dominated by the masterpiece of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), and its stylish account of erotic psychology and its manipulations. The libertine Valmont and his accomplice and rival, Mme de Merteuil, plot the downfall of their victims in a Parisian society that illustrates Rousseau’s strictures: natural human values have no place in a world of conformist expediency, cynicism, and vicious exploitation. Laclos’s novel is, he claims, didactic, a moral satire of a dangerous, heartless world; yet he also admires the cold, vengeful intelligence that invents and directs that world’s viciousness, which the highly crafted epistolary construction of the work, as well as its elegant, sharp-witted, and subtle language, brilliantly exemplify” (Britannica).
There were several 1782 printings: this is the rare first printing (“A” as identified by Max Brun) with errata slip at the end of volume IV and errata in text uncorrected. Four volumes bound in two, complete with all half-titles.
Provenance: Shelfmarks (on free endpapers) indicating that these volumes are from library of Charles de Rohan, prince de Soubise (1715-1787), a favorite of Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour and a legendary book collector whose vast collection of 8300 books was sold at auction in 1788.
Amsterdam and Paris: Neveu, 1782. Small octavo (95x163mm), contemporary full calf, later spine labels. Four volumes bound in two. A beautiful copy with text exceptionally clean. RARE.
Price: $12,500 .