RARE FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF VOLTAIRE'S CANDIDE, 1759
VOLTAIRE. Candid: or, All for the Best. BOUND WITH: FIELDING, Henry. The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon. London: J. Nourse; A. Millar, 1759, 1755. Octavo, early full brown mottled calf rebacked, raised bands, red morocco spine label. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $17,800.
First edition in English of one of the great classics of world literature, published the same year as the French-language Geneva first edition. Bound with a first edition of Henry Fielding's posthumous Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.
Candide is the crowning literary achievement of one of the finest stylists to all of literature. Voltaire penned his magnum opus in response to a philosophy of optimism espoused by Liebnitz and Rousseau. Finding their views both useless and dangerous, Voltaire instead believed that humanity had too long acquiesced to the idea that evil and injustice were things to be justified or ignored, rather than faced and defeated. His goal in this wonderfully picaresque novel was to banish such escapisms by exposing them. In Candide Voltaire hoped to bring to his readers a new awareness of cruelty and injustice, spurring them to action or, at the very least, outrage. His novel's deceptively "light-weight parables" and lively tales of "Candide and his equally guileless if more worldly-wise mentor, Dr. Pangloss, and their delicious adventures, still command our attention. The folly of philosophic and religious optimism is displayed with a vigor and wit that carries the reader away. Irony without exaggeration, a perfect restraint in its admirable humor, a gift for the throwaway line… all these show Voltaire's style and originality at their incomparable best" (PMM 204).
This English edition of Voltaire's immensely readable and highly entertaining classic was published by John Nourse in the same year that the French-language Geneva first edition appeared. For years, Nourse was known as Voltaire's publisher in London, due to his close relationship with the Cramer brothers of Geneva (the "official" printers of Voltaire's French editions). Nourse was, in fact, "the most constant reprinter and publisher of translations of Voltaire's works in England" and from 1753 onward, he "almost automatically both reprinted and translated most of Voltaire's works" (Barber, "Some Early English Editions of Voltaire," British Library Journal, 105-6).
Copies of the Geneva edition of Candide (the first French printing that preceded 16 others in 1759) were shipped to Paris and Amsterdam on January 15th. The largest consignment of books ever shipped to Nourse left Geneva on January 18th and traveled a circuitous route by water to Basel and then down the Rhine, before finally being shipped across the channel to England. (It should be noted that there is no mention of Candide in the account book for this shipment). John Nourse did, however rather quickly bring out the "pirated" London edition of this French text, announcing its availability on April 26th and noting that an English version was soon to be released. That anonymous translation, entitled Candid, or, All for the Best was first announced to the public by Nourse on May 22, 1759. This translation proved to be so popular that it enjoyed a "carefully revised and corrected" second edition printing in the same year.
There were three other English translations of Candide published in 1759. Two of them are of the version by William Rider, a scholar of Jesus College, Oxford, which he entitled, Candidus: or, The Optimist. The first was printed in London by J. Scott and J. Gretton and another was published in Dublin by James Joey and William Smith. According to Barber, the London edition of Rider's translation was announced in The Public Advertiser on May 15, 1759—one week before the Nourse announcement—and Barber states that "it is evidence that it was then known that there was some textual problem behind these texts since the Rider translation advertised itself as 'translated from the last correct copy sent by him [Voltaire] as a present to the translator' and added 'The Public need not be entreated to ask from this particular Translation, as we may presume to assert there is no other authenticated copy under the Author's hand of this work in the Kingdom." What is confusing about the allegation in this advertisement is that it presumes there is another translation already available on the market and the buyer is advised "to ask for this particular Translation" rather than to be duped into buying that unnamed (but undoubtedly Nourse) translation which it claimed was inferior. Finally, an anonymous translation entitled Candidus or, All for the Best was also published by Sands, Donaldson, Murray and Cochran for A. Donaldson in Edinburgh, but there is no known publication date associated with that book. Accordingly, this Nourse translation can appropriately be called the first edition in English, as there is ample evidence to support that contention.
Henry Fielding's Journal is also a sought-after work, the posthumously published journal of his voyage to Portugal in July 1754, in hope of recovering from cirrhosis of the liver. He died in that country on October 8, 1754, and was buried in Lisbon in the English cemetery at St George's Church. "The incidents of his voyage are detailed with great humor and with undiminished interest in life… Mr. Austin Dobson rightly says that it is one 'of the most unfeigned and touching little tracts in our own or any other literature'" (DNB). Candide bound after Fielding's Journal. Journal first issue (though second state), with edited text, as indicated by pages 241-76 misnumbered 193-228. An unedited version, with correct pagination, was suppressed by Henry Fielding's half-brother, but issued later in response to demand prompted by the Lisbon earthquake of November 1755. Rothschild 857 (Journal). Early owner ink signature to title page of Journal and to verso of Candide half title; owner ink stamp and pencil annotations to title page of Journal. Engraved armorial bookplate to verso of Journal title page. Infrequent penciled underlining and marginalia. Bookseller stamp to front pastedown.
Text generally clean, a bit of rubbing to corners of binding, nicely rebacked. An attractive copy.