“BOVARY C’EST MOI”: SCARCE FIRST ISSUE OF FLAUBERT’S MASTERPIECE
FLAUBERT, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Moeurs de Province. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1857. Two volumes. 12mo, contemporary half brown morocco, marbled boards and endpapers. Housed in a custom cloth clamshell box. $9500.
Rare first edition, first issue in book form, of Flaubert’s literary masterpiece, “the definitive model of the novel” (Émile Zola) and the work that “ushered the age of realism into modern European literature,” in contemporary binding.
Upon publication of Madame Bovary, both Flaubert and his publisher were brought to trial on charges of immorality and narrowly escaped conviction (the same tribunal found Charles Baudelaire guilty on the same charge six months later). Although purportedly based in part on the circumstances of Flaubert's friend Louise Pradier, the author's claim that "Madame Bovary is myself," with his unrelenting objectivity and deep compassion for his characters, earned him a reputation as the great master of the Realist school of French literature. Flaubert's attention to minute particulars of description and his belief in "le mot juste" significantly influenced later writers and thinkers, making Madame Bovary integral to the evolution of modern literature. First issue, with misspelling of "Senard" as "Senart" on dedication page. With half titles; with 36-page publisher's catalogue, in its earliest state, bound in at rear of Volume I. Text in French. Booklabel of Robert de Billy, a French diplomat who later became ambassador to Japan and Greece. Billy also had a close friendship with Marcel Proust that began during their compulsory military service and that led to Billy introducing Proust to books by his favorite authors like Ruskin.
Interior generally fine with only a few faint finger smudges, light wear to binding, and mild toning to spines. A handsome copy in near-fine condition.