April 2023 Catalogue

23. (MARIE ANTOINETTE) (NAPOLEON BONAPARTE) GONDI, Jean François Paul de, Cardinal de Retz. Mémoires du Cardinal de Retz. [Volumes I, III-VI]. Geneve, 1777. WITH [Volume II] Geneve, 1779. WITH: JOLI, Guy. Mémoires de Guy Joli… et Mémoires de Madame la Duchesse de Nemours. Geneve, 1777. Six volumes altogether. Small octavo (4 by 6-3/4 inches), contemporary full brown polished calf gilt, armorial coat of arms (I, III-VI), contemporary full mottled calf gilt (II), custom wrappers, custom clamshell box. $38,000. Rare 1777-79 editions of the four-volume Mémoires of Cardinal de Retz and the 1771 two-volume Mémoires de Guy Joli and Madame la Duchesse de Nemours, possessing an exceedingly rare provenance in association with two of the most legendary figures in French history—Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte. Five volumes (I, III-VI) are from the library of Marie-Antoinette, bound in contemporary calf gilt and displaying her distinctive gilt-tooled armorial coat of arms on the boards, along with her gilt-stamped crowned cipher “CT” on the spines. Volume II, bound in contemporary mottled calf gilt, contains a lengthy gift inscription by Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte—“de la biblioteque [sic] de mon frere l’ Empereur Napoleon” (from the library of my brother the Emperor Napoleon)—to Baron Claude Francois Méneval, Napoleon’s trusted private secretary and his “only really close friend and confidant.” Cardinal de Retz played a central role in the deadly politics of the Frondist era in France (1648-52), when a rebellion arose against Anne of Austria (regent for her son, Louis XIV) and her minister Cardinal Mazarin. “His Mémoires, composed circa 1675-79... cover his youth, his political career during the Fronde, his conflict with the crown, and the beginning of his exile after he lost his battle to Mazarin. They stop abruptly in 1656, during a papal conclave in Rome” (Stefanovska in Lyons & Wise, 184, 183n). This classic political history and autobiography clearly reveals “the influence not only of Machiavelli and of Montaigne but of Hobbes, Naudé and Pascal” (Lyons & Wise, 13, 191). Hume would quote Retz in his “Idea for a Perfect Commonwealth” and the Cardinal’s Mémoires resonated with America’s Founding Fathers—in particular James Madison. Mémoires du Cardinal de Retz first appeared in a three-volume edition in 1717, published in Nancy, Joli Mémoires first published in 1718. Text in French. Graesse VI:94. Marie-Antoinette formed two libraries, one at the Tuileries and one at the Petit Trianon. Volumes in her library at Petit Trianon (Volumes I, III-VI of this copy) are identified by a gilt-stamped cipher with the initials ‘C[hateau] T[rianon]’ surmounted by a crown (Olivier 2508, fer 15) at the spine end, sometimes also on the upper board (Fletcher, 74). Volumes I, III-VI with inkstamps to title pages stating from “Bibliotheque du premiere consul.” Volume II with unidentified armorial bookplate, occasional lightly penciled marginalia, and small ink mark to margin (p. 387). Trace of bookplate removal (I). Interiors quite fresh with only light scattered foxing, tiny bit of loss to corner not affecting text (II:83), a few minor marginal paper flaws, faint occasional marginal dampstaining in one volume (IV) only, light edge-wear. An exceptional association set in extremely good condition with a most rare provenance.