“THE WORK OF MY ENTIRE LIFE” (FLAUBERT)
FLAUBERT, Gustave. The First Temptation of Saint Anthony. London: John Lane (Bodley Head), 1924. Octavo, mid-20th-century full crimson crushed morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt. $400.
Limited illustrated edition, number 695 of 3,000 copies, of Flaubert’s novel, a work he believed “would be enough to send [him] to the galleys,” deemed “the secret chamber of Flaubert’s mind” by Baudelaire, with 20 striking full-page plates (12 in color) and 25 in-text sensual illustrations by Jean de Bosschère, bound in full morocco gilt.
Flaubert called The Temptation, first issued in French in 1874, "the work of my entire life," and Baudelaire, in an 1857 essay, "referred to The Temptation as 'the secret chamber of Flaubert's mind… The Temptation was indeed the work of a lifetime, and in senses other than just chronological… In the 20th century, we had to wait for writers like Joyce and Beckett to give us something similar" (Marshall Olds). To Michel Foucault, The Temptation "seems to represent Flaubert's unattainable dream: what he wanted his works to be… but also what they must never be if they were to see the light of day. The Temptation existed before any of Flaubert's books… and it was repeated—as ritual, purification, exercise, a 'temptation' to overcome—prior to writing each of his major texts" (Language, Counter-Memory, 88). Flaubert's Saint Anthony "remembers former temptations and is beset by new ones, the lusts of the flesh and the senses, or the onslaught of philosophic doubt. The work… is remarkable for its beauty of style and language, and its imaginative power"(Oxford Companion, 699). Bosschère's illustrations, influenced by Aubrey Beardsley, "have the bravest qualities of the medieval missal and a modern cinematograph" (Osborn, Introduction). Translation by René Francis.
Text and illustrations fine, a bit of expert restoration to spine head. A lovely about-fine copy.