[Geneva]: [Cramer], 1759.
Clasics, parables, French literature. 1st Edition. Hardcover. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. Near Fine. Item #003611
12mo (163 x 94 mm). 299  pp. Signatures: A-M12 N8 (-N7-8). Woodcut title vignette, repeated on p. 193 and 266, other woodcut ornaments and vignettes in text, bound without binder's 'avis au reliure' leaf N8 and blank leaf N7 as almost always. Leaves B4, B9, D6 and D7 are cancels. Contemporary French mottled calf, flat spine with gilt decoration and gilt-lettered red morocco label, marbled endpapers, red-dyed edges (rubbing to extremities, minor wear and bumping of corners, joints at head and foot with a few mm of insignificant repair). Text crisp and clean throughout, occasional very minor spotting, paper flaw to upper corner of leaf A7. Provenance: Biblioteca Lucini Passalaqua (bookplate to front pastedown), author's name added on first flyleaf in manuscript. Exceptionally well preserved copy in virtually untouched contemporary binding. ----
PMM 204; En français dans le texte 160; Barber 299G, Bengesco 1434; Morize 59a; Wade 1; Princeton 3298.323.1. RARE FIRST EDITION, identified as the true first of Candide by Giles Barber in 1978. The bibliographical history of this book has been exasperatingly complex and confused, not least because before handing over a final manuscript to Cramer, Voltaire went behind his back and sent a slightly different version of the manuscript to John Nourse, a printer in London, who may well have dispatched copies to other publishers, The result was that within weeks of the first edition of Candide appearing in Geneva, sixteen other editions appeared in Paris, London and Amsterdam. Drawing on the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 for inspiration, this conte philosophique became an almost instant best-seller with about 20,000 copies selling in the first year, in spite of initial censorship.
"Voltaire made a number of changes to the text of Candide during the printing in Geneva. He made further corrections after the printing was finished, requiring the replacement of 4 leaves of text with corrected versions. These cancel leaves were included in the first edition in the final gathering of 12 leaves (effectively N9-12), together with a printed 'avis au relieur' leaf, i.e. instructions to the binder as to where to place the four corrected leaves in the text. The corrected leaves were inserted at pp. 31/32, 41/42, 83/84, 85/86, in each case as conjoint leaves, so no stubs were required, making the changes undetectable. The 'avis au relieur' leaf was almost always then discarded by the binder, as having served its purpose." (Nicholas Marlowe Rare Books, List 3: The Candide Conspiracy, pp. 11-12).
"It was Voltaire himself and his long career of disorderly, troubled and occasionally glorious opposition to established authority rather than his books which caught the imagination and occupied the mind of his contemporaries and succeeding generations. Whether writing frivolously to amuse, or seriously to put right injustice, he was never unnoticed: his best-sellers made him a rich man; when he tried to right injustice, as in the case of Lally Tollendal, he was listened to. Voltaire lived for a very long time and from his youth on was always in some sort of trouble. In 1716 he was exiled for the first time for writing or being thought to have written lampoons against the Regent. In 1718 his first tragedy, Oedipe, was produced, and the next year he was exiled again. And so it went on, flattery, scribbling, insult and trouble taking equal shares in his life. In 1726, after some particularly bad trouble, Voltaire went to London. Here he stayed for three years; it was one of the most important visits of his life. The eighteenth-century English were more different from the eighteenth-century French than any two European nations can be imagined to be now, and the piquancy of this difference had the liveliest effect on Voltaire. Moreover, the English, unlike the French, who regarded Voltaire as a writer of elegant trifles, took him seriously, and paid him correspondingly. Voltaire responded by behaving seriously and even gratefully. Much struck by the admirable English phlegm and toleration of free thought and eccentricity, he wrote the Lettres Philosophiques sur les Anglais, the most sympathetic of critiques. Back in France, this only made more trouble, and he took refuge at Cirey in Lorraine with the talented Marquise de Chatelet. In the 1740s he was partially restored to favour and through the influence of Mme de Pompadour he was made historiographer royal on New Year’s Day 1745. He was soon back in hiding, and Mme de Chatelet died. So in 1751 Voltaire yielded to the persistent invitations of Frederick of Prussia, and set out for Berlin. There, despite his farcical quarrels with the King, he remained for three years, until the breach became total. Then he fled to Geneva where he found and bought the ideal refuge, Ferney, four miles from the city. Here, just on French soil, he could enjoy the political liberty of Geneva with the social liberty of France. Here Candide, the most perfect of the light-weight parables which were his especial and peculiar forte, was written. Typically, it was published anonymously, and many times printed and pirated in its early years. Which of the editions of 1759 is the first is still open to doubt. But what does it matter? Voltaire would be pleased to know that his attempts to cover his tracks have been successful and even more to contemplate the book’s continued popularity. For the optimistic, innocent Candide, and his equally guileless if more worldly-wise mentor, Dr Pangloss, and their delicious adventures, still command our attention. The folly of philosophic and religious optimism is displayed with a vigour and wit that carries the reader away. Irony without exaggeration, a perfect restraint in its admirable humour, a gift for the 'throwaway line' ('pour encourager les autres' is a classic example); all these show Voltaire's style and originality at their incomparable best." (PMM 204).
Literature: Wade Ida O., The First Edition of Candide - A Problem of Identification. In: The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 20, 1959, pp. 63-88. Bengesco, Voltaire, Bibliographie de ses oeuvres, 1882-90, I, 444 ff. Morize, André, Candide; ou L'optimisme. Critical Edition, Paris, 1913, pp. lxvi-lxxxvii. Barber, Giles. Some Early English Editions of Voltaire. British Library Journal, vol. 4, issue 2, 1978. Besterman, Theodore. Some eigtheenth-century Voltaire editions unknown to Bengesco. Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1973.
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