“FRANCE’S OUTSTANDING EPISTOLARIAN”
SEVIGNE, Madame de. Lettres Choisies. Tours: Alfred Mame et Fils, 1871. Quarto, early 20th century half red morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edge gilt, uncut. $500.
Limited edition, number 3 of 332 copies (one of 300 on papier vergé), of selected letters by Mme. de Sevigne—not only a vivid and invaluable primary source of information about aristocratic 17th-century France but also an engrossing and moving testament to maternal love, illustrated with etchings by Jean Antoine Valentin Folquier (frontispiece portrait and 17 headpiece vignettes), handsomely bound.
In her delightful and highly acclaimed letters, primarily written to her estranged daughter, Mme. de Sevigne describes domestic and courtly affairs in 17th-century France with wit, imagination and intelligence. Her correspondence endures for its freedom of expression and familiar style in an era of constraint and formality. "Literary critics quickly began to praise her 'singularity… and to propose her as France's outstanding epistolarian" (Hollier, 420). Thornton Wilder drew on Mme. de Sevigne for inspiration when creating the character of the Marquesa de Montemayor in his classic novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927). With frontispiece portrait and 17 headpiece vignettes. Several publishing houses "employed etching as a means of book illustration for works of the highest class in éditions de bibliophile. Messrs. Marne of Tours, for example… used it for their magnificent editions of La Fontaine, Pascal… [and] Madame de Sevigne [among others]… all of which are illustrated in etching by Foulquier" (Hamerton, 149). The first collection of Mme. de Sevigne's letters was published posthumously in 1725. Text in French. Bookplate. Bookseller's small ticket.
Scattered light foxing. Edges of binding lightly rubbed. Near-fine condition.