8vo (162 x 109 mm). 16 pp. Half-title. Etched & engraved title and 4 plates by N. de Launay after Moreau le jeune. Woodcut headpiece by Beugnet, woodcut tailpieces. 19th-century red morocco gilt, sides with triple fillet panel, spine gold-tooled, turn-ins richly gold-tooled, g.e., by Chambolle-Duru. Provenance: Georges Danyau, bookplate.***
First Edition of an allegorical poem in four “songes,” or dreams, thinly disguising a political manifesto in favor of a parliamentary monarchy.
The poem honors the most powerful men in the court of Louis XVI at that time, the Comte de Maurepas and the Marquis de Miromesnil. Following his return to court after a 25-year exile for an epigram offensive to Mme. de Pompadour, in 1774 Maurepas was appointed "Ministre d'Etat" or chief royal advisor by Louis XVI. In this capacity Maurepas bestowed the office of Keeper of the Seals on Miromesnil (also newly recalled from a 3-year exile), and named the economist Turgot as controller-general of finances. Together the three brought back the old parlements. Maurepas was instrumental in obtaining French support for the American revolutionaries. He later turned against Turgot, whose attacks on privilege won him the enmity of many at court, and who was forced to resign in August 1776.
Imbert's poem celebrates the return of Maurepas, in the veiled form of dreams. Each dream features a monarch (Louis XVI) and a wise old man with a young face (Maurepas). Miromesnil makes a solemn appearance as the "sacred holder of the royal seal" (the captions to Moreau's engravings, which faithfully reproduce the visions described in the poem, identify the two by name). Showing kings astride clouds, politicians on altars, and glimpses of squabbling populace at the margins, his delicate engravings present a secular take on traditional Christian allegorical imagery. Paris monuments can be discerned in the backgrounds of two of the plates.
A typographical bijou, the edition was handsomely printed in very small types by François Ambroise Didot. This fine copy has the second state of the caption to the first plate, with the name Miromesnil changed to Maurepas; and what Cohen and de Ricci describe as the first state of the caption to plate 2, but which must be the second state, with Turgot’s name removed. Cohen-de Ricci 508-9; Cioranescu 34351; Bocher, Moreau, 836-840. Item #2233