L'Olympe, by DU BAIL, Louis Moreau, sieur (fl. 1600-1646).

the Duchesse de Gramont’s copy
DU BAIL, Louis Moreau, sieur (fl. 1600-1646).

L'Olympe, ou la Princesse Inconnue, par le S. du Bail. Paris, Pierre Rocolet, 1635.

First Edition. 8vo (160 x 100 mm), pp. [viii], 602 (ie, 604, pp. 334-335 repeated), [3], collating a4, A-PP8, title page engraved by Leon Gaultier, paper a little browned throughout, with some ink staining and light wear, in a contemporary armorial binding of olive morocco, triple filet border to both covers around central arms, gilt, the spine gilt in compartments, second compartment lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, pink silk marker, with the early ownership inscription ‘Ex Bibliotheca D. Crozat’ and the arms of the duchesse de Gramont gilt on both covers.

A scarce classically-inspired ‘roman galant’ by the Poitiers-born soldier and novelist, Louis Moreau du Bail, and an early example of the genre. Du Bail’s prolific output, though not didactic, was intended as an inspirational and moral celebration of romantic love. About half of his thirteen known novels, including the present, have a classical inspiration, and many of these are notable for their strong heroines. In this novel, the heroine is modelled on the fictitious illegitimate daughter of King Henry III of France and tells the story of her two marriages, the betrayal by her second husband and her subsequent ruin, captivity and escape from execution. Not much is known about Du Bail, except that he was a soldier and a novelist: ‘Un écuyer poitevin de confession catholique, né certainement avant 1600, qui connut la vie militaire et a captivité: telles sont les maigres indications que nous pouvons ramasser’ (Alain Niderst). This is the sixth of his known thirteen novels, which were published between 1622 and 1646. ‘[Son] inspiration est toujours élévée. Il veut porter le lecteur au repentir, à la pénitence, à la retraite’ (Joseph Salvat in Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises, XVII Siècle, 401).
This is a stunning copy from the libraries of the marquis de Tugny and, later, the duchesse de Gramont, bibliophile and patron of the arts whose library of some 3,000 volumes was dispersed during the French Revolution after she was guillotined. ‘En dehors d’éminentes qualités qui appartiennent à l’histoire, son goût pour les choses de l’art et le soin éclairé qu’elle apporta dans la composition de sa belle bibliothèque, la désignent encore à l’attention des curieux et des lettrés... Les livres de la ducesse de Gramont sont reliés simplement, mais avec une certaine élégance. Le soin avec lequel a été exécuté le corps d’ouvrage justifie l’empressement dont ils sont l’objet de la part des bilbliophiles et les prix quelquefois élevés qu’ils obtiennent’ (Ernest Quentin-Bauchart).

1. Joseph-Antoine Crozat, marquis de Tugny (1696-1751), this work no. 2426 in his catalogue and bearing his inscription, ‘Ex Bibliotheca D. Crozat’, on the verso of the title-page.
2. Béatrix de Choiseul-Stainville, duchesse de Gramont (1730-1794), with her arms on the binding.

Cioranescu XVII, 26333; Gay III, p. 564; Williams, Bibliography of the Seventeenth Century Novel in France, New York 1931, p. 161; Quentin-Bauchart, Les Femmes Bibliophiles, II, 105-122, no. 40 (this copy); Catalogue des livres de Monsieur le Président Crozat de Tugny, Thiboust, 1751, no. 2426.

OCLC lists copies at BN, Mazarine, Lyon and Princeton only.

Keywords: Continental Books
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