The true history of the state prisoner, commonly called the Iron Mask, extracted from documents in the French archives. By the hon. George Agar Ellis. London, John Murray, 1826.
First Edition. 12mo, pp. [iv], viii, 352, some scattered foxing in text, in contemporary half calf over marbled boards, spine gilt in compartments with green morocco label lettered in gilt, with a later bookplate messily removed, over a yellow one, torn and largely obscured, with the signature of M. Connolly Baldoyh (?).
First edition of an important work about the so-called ‘Man in the Iron Mask’, the legendary figure long thought to have been the identical twin brother of Louis XIV. The mysterious man had been a captive of the French government since 1687 and was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1698 until his death in 1703, during all of which time his face had been hidden by a mask. The legend formed part of Dumas's brilliant novel Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, 1846, the most glorious and most dangerous of the adventures of the Three Musketeers, and the story was the subject of the MGM film, ‘The man in the Iron Mask’.
Agar-Ellis's account, extracted from documents in the French archives, was translated into French and published as Histoire authentique du Prisonnier d’Etat, connu sous le nom de Masque de Fer, Paris, 1830. Dumas is known to have read it while he was researching the subject for his novel. Agar-Ellis was led to the conclusion that the masked prisoner was probably the Italian Antonio Ercole Matthioli, born December 1, 1640 at Bologna. Matthioli, an astute, clever man became the Secretary of State to the Duke of Mantua, a province of Italy. Matthioli became powerful and rich but his unscrupulous selling of a treaty drawn up by Louis XIV of France and the Duke of Mantua (whereby Louis pledged to buy the fortress at Mantua) to France's enemies resulted in him being kidnapped by French soldiers and held at Pinerolo for treason. The Duke of Mantua disowned him and Matthioli was kept masked for his own protection. The German historian Wilhelm Broecking came independently to the same conclusion seventy years later.