Essai sur le Caractère, les Mœurs et l’Esprit des Femmes…

‘le mieux est l’ennemi du bien’.
THOMAS, Antoine-Leonard (1732-1767).

Essai sur le Caractère, les Mœurs et l’Esprit des Femmes dans les différens siecles, par M. Thomas, de l’Académie Françoise. Paris, Moutard, 1772.

First Edition. Four works in one volume, 8vo (188 x 115 mm), engraved frontispiece by Cochin and pp. [iv], 210, [2]; Boufflers: pp. 26; Voltaire: pp. 12; Voltaire: pp. 11, [1], in contemporary plain calf, triple gilt filet to covers, flat spine gilt in compartments, morocco label lettered in gilt, marbled blue endpapers and matching blue marbled edges, with the contemporary heraldic bookplate and printed booklabel of M. Ch. Millon de Montherlant.

A good copy of the first edition of Thomas' popular and wide-ranging study of women. He gives the history of concubines, the heroines of Sparta, Athenian prostitutes and famous women of the modern era. He examines the influence on women of Christianity and chivalry and compares the different abilities of women and men. Even though in general women he deems women not to be very talented or capable of serious study, nonetheless he does endow them with some qualities. Translated into English as An Essay on the Character, Manners and Genius of Women in different Ages, London 1773, by a Mr. Russell. Another English translation, by Mrs. Kindersley, followed in 1781. More recently, a scholarly edition has been published under the title Qu’est-ce qu’une femme?, Paris, 1989, with commentaries by Diderot and Madame d’Épinay and a preface by Élisabeth Badinter.

Bound after Thomas’ famous essay are three scarce pamphlets:
1. BOUFFLERS, Stanislas-Jean de (1738-1815).
Lettres de M. le Chevalier de Boufflers, pendant son voyage en Suisse, à Madame sa Mère. En Suisse, 1772.
Second edition of this scarce pamphlet first published in 1771. OCLC lists BN, Geneva, Cornell (and BN only of the 1771 edition).
Lettre de M. de V... Sur un écrit anonyme. [s.l. probably Paris or Lyon], 1772.
A scarce edition of Voltaire’s reply to an anonymous pamphlet entitled Réflexions sur la jalousie, pour servir de commentaire aux derniers ouvrages de M. de Voltaire, Amsterdam 1772. The author of the pamphlet has been identified as Charles Georges Leroy. The first edition of Voltaire’s riposte was published ‘à Ferney 20 avril 1772’. With one or two small differences, the text of this edition matches that published in the Mercure in June 1772.
OCLC lists BN, Institut et Musée Voltaire, Toronto and Yale.
BN Voltaire Catalogue 4283; not in Bengesco.
La Bégueule. Conte Moral. [Paris], 1772.
First Edition of Voltaire’s satirical verse conte in which his heroine, bored by her life of luxury, takes a lover to add spice to her life. Famously, this tale contains the first appearance of Voltaire’s phrase ‘le mieux est l’ennemi du bien’.
OCLC lists BL, Institut et Musée Voltaire, NYPL, Yale, Cambridge, Wake Forest and National Library of Australia.
BN Voltaire Catalogue 2082; Bengesco 653.

Cioranescu, 61765; Gay: II: 167.

Keywords: Continental Books
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