“WHATEVER HE BESIEGED, FELL; WHATEVER HE DEFENDED, HELD”: FIRST EDITIONS OF VAUBAN’S L’ATTAQUE ET LA DÉFENSE, 1737-42,HANDSOMELY ILLUSTRATED WITH 45 PLATES (25 FOLDING)
VAUBAN, [Sébastien le Prestre de]. De l’Attaque et de la Défense des Places. WITH: De l’Attaque et le la Defense des Places… Tome Second. Contenant un Traité Pratique des Mines. Le Have [The Hague]: Pierre de Hondt, 1737, 1742. Two volumes in one. Quarto, early 19th-century half green cloth, blue marbled boards. $2800.
First editions of Vauban’s massive posthumous two-volume De l’Attaque et de la la Défense des Places, the “standard work for students of fortifications and siegecraft until the second half of the 19th century,” with 45 splendid engraved plates (including 25 folding), by this powerfully influential military strategist whose legacy was so esteemed by Napoleon that he ordered Vauban’s heart be placed under the dome of the Invalides in Paris.
Legendary 17th-century military strategist Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban is considered central in “determining the course of siege warfare for the next century or more. Not only did he provide a systematic discussion of the siege attack (the basis for tactical doctrine), but his legacy… completely altered the face of early modern siegecraft, reversing the dominance of the century-old trace italienne design and overturning as well the pattern of long, bloody, uncertain sieges of the 16th and 17th centuries. His swift conquests of Spanish and Dutch towns in the War of Devolution, the Dutch War, the War of Reunions, and the Nine Years’ War won him fame throughout Europe; a contemporary adage boasted that a town besieged by Vauban was one taken, while a town defended by him was one saved… The Vauban legacy thus eliminated the eternal sieges of a previous age.” Vauban, who was made Marshal of France in 1703, directed 47 sieges during the many campaigns that shaped the country’s emerging frontiers under Louis XIV. In times of both war and peace, he worked tirelessly at designing and building new fortresses, and strengthening existing ones. Vauban almost single-handedly reversed the tendency of arduous expensive sieges, and although he died in 1707, “his legacy lasted far beyond his death. His stone and brick fortresses shaped campaigns long after he had been buried and outline France’s hexagon today; some of them still stand, having survived even WWII bombardments (e.g. Cherbourg and Brest)… Much has been made of Vauban’s strategic vision, particularly his creation of a rationalized, fortified frontiere de fer shielding France, the famous pre carre (translated alternately as a dueling round or a squared circle)…. The territorial boundaries Louis XIV conquered and defended with the aid of Vauban’s abilities last to this day” (Ostwald, Vauban Under Siege, 9-13).
Vauban is also seen as the first since the classic age of Rome to systematically build proper, permanent barracks to accommodate soldiers—a vital step in promoting their health, well-being and discipline. The sieges conducted by Napoleon’s armies in the Iberian Peninsular in the second decade of the 19th century were clearly recognizable as Vauban-style assaults. So great was Napoleon’s esteem for Vauban that in May 1808, he honored Vauban by arranging to have his heart placed within the grand monument erected under the dome of the Invalides in Paris. “Vauban’s highly-renowned De l’Attaque et de la Defense des Places…. was the standard work for students of fortifications and siegecraft until the second half of the 19th century” (Gat, Origins, 35). Two volumes: containing 20 full-page and 25 folding maps and plans: bound without plates IV, XV (I). The 1742 work in this volume is devoted to the theory and practice of mines, and features a “Traité de la Guerre en Général, Par un Officier de Distinction.” Containing separate red- and black printed title pages, each with engraved lozenge; engraved ornamental initials, head- and tailpieces throughout. Occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text. With three rear leaves of advertisements. Text in French. Early owner inscriptions to title pages, and on blank bookplate tipped to front pastedown. Occasional lightly penciled marginalia. Three laid-in leaves of penciled notations.
Interior fresh with light scattered foxing, slight rubbing, some edge-wear to early boards. An extremely good copy of this fundamental work in world and military history.