Les Bijoux Indiscrets. Tome Premier [Second]. ‘Monomotapa’, ie Paris, 1748.
First Edition. Two volumes, 12mo (162 x 90 mm), engraved frontispiece bound facing the text and pp. [viii], 370; [iv], 420, five further engraved plates in volume one and two further in volume two, engraved vignettes on the titles, text fairly browned and damp-stained in places, title-page vignettes of canopy with cherub facing to the left (76 x 59), frontispiece with the figures to the left and the trees to the right, bearing the legend 'Imagination prenoit la plume des mains de la folie, et l'amour lui dictoit', in modern green vellum, red morocco labels on spines lettered in gilt, red edges.
The first edition of Diderot's first novel, in a modern green vellum binding. Diderot’s early best-seller was said to have been written to pay for the expensive lifestyle of his mistress, Madame de Puisieux. Based on the medieval tale 'Le chevalier que faisait les cons parler' and heavily influenced by Caylus' adaptation of this and Crebillon fils' contes libertins, Diderot soon came to disavow his earliest and raciest work. It caused an enormous scandal on its publication and, along with his Lettres sur les aveugles, was the cause of Diderot's being imprisoned in Vincennes. This is Diderot's nearest approach to the world of Thérèse Philosophe (on the publication of Bijoux Indiscrets this was frequently attributed to him), 'the bawdy, naughty, cheeky world of the early Enlightenment, where everything was held up to question and nothing was sacred' (Darnton p. 90).
Even in this, his most scandalous and light-hearted work, Diderot was beginning to express the philosophical ideas that came to fruition in his later work. 'La critique du cartésianisme, des systèmes à priori, des rêveries de la métaphysique, l'apologie de Newton, certaines théories empiristes et associationnistes, les professions de foi de naturalisme moral montrent que, même dans un ouvrage très léger... Diderot n'oublie pas la philosophie' (H. Bénac, quoted by Henri Berthaut in Grente's Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises).
David Adams, Bibliographie des œuvres de Denis Diderot 1739-1900, BII; Tchemerzine II: 922 (IV, 430a); Jones p. 97; Darnton Check List 62; see also Darnton, Forbidden Best-Sellers, p. 90; Gay I, 303.