“I HAVE RESOLVED ON AN ENTERPRISE WHICH HAS NO PRECEDENT, AND WHICH, ONCE COMPLETE, WILL HAVE NO IMITATION”: RARE FIRST EDITION OF ROUSSEAU’S CONFESSIONS, UNCUT COPY
ROUSSEAU, J(ean) J(acques). Les Confessions de J. J. Rousseau, Suivies des Reveries du Promeneur Solitarie. Geneve: no publisher, 1782. Two volumes. Octavo, period-style full brown calf gilt, raised bands, red leather spine labels, uncut; pp. [iv], 471, ; [iv], 279, , 300. $12,000.
First edition of the first six books of the Confessions and the Reveries, Rousseau’s autobiographical masterpiece, handsomely bound.
Published posthumously, the Confessions, supplemented by Reveries of the Solitary Walker, is the precursor of the modern autobiography. "Claiming to present a man in 'all the truth of nature,' he describes in vivid and minute detail, and with complete candor (disclosing even his meanest actions and his sexual abnormalities), the incidents of an agitated life, his reactions to them, and his spiritual development" (Reid, 136). "The publication of the Confessions in 1782… only reinforced the intensely personal bond that Rousseau's countless disciples felt with him… nothing could shake their faith in his essential moral purity. The breathtaking candor of his admissions of vice as well as virtue strengthened their view that he was the greatest honnete homme of their century" (Schama, Citizens, p. 160). R.A. Leigh (following J. Calemard in 1927) has conclusively proven that the present edition, which used to be called the "first separate edition," is the true first, appearing before the same text appeared as Volumes 19 and 20 of the Oeuvres posthumes, published the same year. (Dufour, in his standard Rousseau bibliography, assigns this edition a number prior to that of the collected works, but does not explicitly determine priority.) The second half of the Confessions was not published until 1789. With all half titles, individual title pages, and section titles. Dufour 1.238, numbers 340 and 350. Leigh, Unsolved Problems in the Bibliography of J.-J. Rousseau, 133-40.
Minor paper restoration to upper inner corners of half-title and title-page in Volume I, not affecting text; very light soiling to first and last few signatures of each volume. Otherwise a bright and fresh uncut copy. Handsomely bound. Rare.