“YOU STUDY THE DOCUMENT ONLY IN ORDER TO KNOW THE MAN”: TAINE’S ORIGINS OF MODERN FRANCE, HANDSOMELY BOUND
TAINE, Hippolyte Adolphe. Les Origines de la France Contemporaine. Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1899-1900. Eleven volumes. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter red close-grain morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut. $1500.
Mixed editions of the noted philosopher’s innovative analysis of French history, handsomely bound by Blackwell’s.
Taine’s influence on French intellectual culture and literature was enormous. His Origines de la France Contemporaine is a monumental analysis of French history, claiming scientific objectivity. His attempt to understand the contemporary political and social reality of France through its origins in the ancien régime and the Revolution is simply grandiose. In conducting his research, Taine invented a unique form of inquiry, combining history (social, constitutional, and ideological) with sociology and psychology, supported by substantial references to archive material. Yet his innovative working methods have always aroused skepticism from all sides. “Several critics have done me the honor of fighting,” he declared, “or sometimes approving, what they call ‘my system.’ I have no such claim to a ‘system’: I try at best to have a method. A system is an explanation of a work in its entirety; a method is a way to work. I want to work in a certain way, nothing more. Instead of refuting rebuttal, I outline the process that is involved, and hope that it leads to truth. My method requires practice— if the scholar wants to try it out, he may decide on its effectiveness one way or the other.” Taine had a special relationship with the authors of his time, especially Émile Zola. “In page after page, including many of [Zola’s] most memorable writings, we are presented with what amounts to a mimesis of the interplay between sensation and imagination which Taine studied at great length and out of which, he believed, emerges the world of the mind” (Philip Walker). Signature of notable collector of English decorative arts Irwin Untermeyer, whose collection for the most part is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Light patches of foxing to first few leaves. A beautifully bound set in near-fine condition.