Les Incas, by MARMONTEL, Jean-François (1723-1799).

Scarce Dublin piracy of best-selling novel with school-child grammatical error on the title-page
MARMONTEL, Jean-François (1723-1799).

Les Incas, ou La Déstruction de l’Empire du Perou, par M. Marmontel, Historiographe de France, l’un des Quarante de l’Academie Françoise. Tome Première [-Seconde]. Paris, Lacombe [ie Dublin?] 1777.

Second Edition? First Dublin Edition? Two volumes, 8vo (175 x 110 mm), pp. xxxii, 253; [iv], [5]-310, [1], including half-titles and several contents leaves after the text in both volumes, marginal wormhole through the endleaves and first few pages of Vol. I, also with considerable staining in a couple of the preliminary leaves of Vol. I, otherwise generally clean although clearly read, some later pencil markings, in contemporary plain calf, blind tooling to the covers along the spine, flat spines ruled in gilt with red and olive green morocco labels lettered and numbered in gilt, the corners a little bumped, the library stamp of ‘J.M.M-OConnor’ on both half titles and the endleaves of Vol. I: generally an attractive set.

A scarce edition of Marmontel’s block-buster, published in the same year as the first edition. MMF list no less than ELEVEN Paris editions of 1777, all printed by Lacombe, with the present edition listed as the second, with its imprint clearly claiming a Paris and Lacombe publication: ‘A Paris, Chez Lacombe, Libraire, rue de Tournon, près le Luxembourg’. However, ESTC includes this edition as a piracy, ‘probably printed in Dublin’, with a false Paris address. This would account for the error on the title page, where the masculine word for volume is made feminine: ‘Tome Première / Tome Seconde’, a mistake no French printer or compositor would make.
Critic, novelist and playwright, Marmontel began life as the son of a poor tailor before coming to Paris on the advice of Voltaire to pursue a career in literature. His Contes moraux, 1755-1765, fictional tales praising philosophy and the practice of virtue, were enormously popular in France and throughout Europe, particularly in England where there were numerous translations. But it was his historical romance, Belisaire, with its plea for civil toleration of Protestants, that brought him most lasting fame and became one of the most controversial novels of its time, condemned both by the Sorbonne and the archbishop of Paris. Les Incas ou la Déstruction de l’Empire du Perou is Marmontel’s answer to the censure he received for Bélisaire. In this novel, he describes the cruelties in Spanish America and demonstrates that they are entirely the result of the religious intolerance of the invaders.

ESTC n479230, at Cambridge and Edinburgh University Libraries.

See MMF 77.50

Keywords: Continental Books
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