Contes Philosophiques et Moraux. by BRICAIRE DE LA DIXMERIE, Nicolas,…

BRICAIRE DE LA DIXMERIE, Nicolas, (1731-1791).

Contes Philosophiques et Moraux. Par M. de la Dixmerie. Tome Premier [- Second]. Londres & Paris, Duchesne, 1765.

First Edition. Two volumes, 12mo, (165 x 90 mm), engraved frontispiece, by Danzel after Larrieu, to the 1st volume and pp. [xx], 360; [iv], 360, frequently misnumbered, in contemporary marbled calf, spines with raised bands gilt in compartments, red and brown morocco labels lettered and numbered in gilt, marbled endpapers, red edges.

The scarce first edition of a collection of short stories and moral tales by this prolific journalist and writer of fiction across multiple genres. He began his career by collaborating with La Place at the Observateur littéraire from where he was poached by the Mercure in January 1762 in order to supply the place previously held by Marmontel and provide them with short stories: ‘pour la partie des contes dont il a le privilège exclusif, ou du moins en chef’. The majority of the contes included in these volumes were previously published in the Mercure. The selection includes his ‘L’Oracle journalier’, ‘Le Huron réformateur’ and ‘Azakia, anecdote Huronne’, as well as oriental tales, magical stories, moral and historical tales, with settings from Canada to Greece and Persia to the Pyrenees and stories telling of kings and financiers, lovers and philosophers.

An interesting preface, which gives background detail and information on many of the contes, begins by poking fun at ‘le grand mot de philosophie’ as chosen by him for his title: ‘ce mot est devenu comme le passe-port banal de tous les Ouvrages de ce tems. Essais, Pensées, Réflexions, Amusemens, Bagatelles, &c. tout est philosophique, ou promet de l’être. Pourquoi des Contes ne jouiroient-ils pas au moins de ce dernier privilége?’ He also explains that, while the tales may have previously been published, he is here gathering them together and publishing them under his own name. The preface concludes by comparing the conte as a literary form with the architecture of Versailles versus the Château de Marly: ‘Dans le premier Palais tout est grand, mais on risque de se trouver soi-même petit. Dans le second, tout est plus à notre portée; notre existence nous est plus sensible. On se perd dans l’un, on se retrouve dans l’autre’ (I, xx).

One of his earlier works, Bricaire de la Dixmerie went on to write a number of utopias and imaginary voyages such as Le Sauvage de Taiti aux Francçais, avec un envoi au philosophe ami des Sauvages, Londres & Paris, 1770 and L’IÎe taciturne et L’iîe enjouée, ou Voyage du génie Alaciel dans ces deux îles, in Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, 1787-1798. He was also involved in the production of the Bibliothèque Universelle des Romans.

ESTC t165438, listing Cambridge, Brotherton, Berlin, Corvey, Wisconsin-Madison and Clark.

Cioranescu 13879; MMF 65.17

Keywords: Continental Books
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