12mo (124 x 68 mm). 4, 82,  pp. Two parts, continuously paginated. Engraved frontispiece, engraved title (letterpress title removed), six engraved plates before lettering, all with tissue guards; one woodcut vignette of a rose. Small repair to outer blank corner of frontispiece, else a fine, untrimmed copy. 19th-century green straight-grained morocco gilt, sides with triple filt fillets framing a wavy double border with roses, spine gilt with roses in compartments, turn-ins gilt, gilt edges, by Dupré, stamp-signed on front turn-in; later two-part blue morocco slipcase by Riviere (slightly scuffed). Provenance: Sir David Lionel Salomons, Broomhill, Tunbridge Wells, armorial bookplate; Carlo de Poortere, bookplate.***
Only Edition, a special copy with the engravings avant la lettre, of a literary almanac in two parts, unusually dividing the contributors by sex, with part 1 (pp. 7-34) containing only poems by women, and part 2 only by men. A table at the end of each part lists the authors. In the ladies’ section are verses by the mother and daughter Mme and Mademoiselle Deshoulières (ou Des Houlières), Mlle de Scudery, Mme de La Suze, Mme de Liancourt, and other seventeenth-century, i.e., “classical” writers. The male contributors include a few more modern authors, notably Voltaire, whose 13 occasional verses, most dedicated to individual women, represent a lighter side of his oeuvre.
The unsigned engravings, of scenes set in elegant interiors or pastoral settings, show a wedding banquet; a couple engaged in a playful chase, with Cupid seizing the woman’s dress; Reason (Athena with a lion) being seduced by folly (a female fool, complete with rattle, bells, and crazy hat); a female Narcissus, admiring herself in a pond; a courting scene with musical instruments; and a lady daydreaming alone in her bedchamber. Grand-Carteret tells us that these plates, along with a seventh plate, were also used in a different Desnos almanac (Les Caprices de l’Amour et de Baccus), printed there with expressive captions. The frontispiece shows the bust of a smiling Voltaire being crowned with stars by one of two attendant muses. Grand-Carteret inattentively suggested that the bust might portray Alexis Piron, another contributor, not noticing the lightly etched titles of two books held by the recumbent muse, namely Charles XII and La Henriade, both of course by Voltaire, and referring to the poem on p. 41, “A Madame la Marquise de Boufflers en lui envoyant la Henriade & Charles XII."
The rose decor of the binding echoes the woodcut vignette of a rose printed at the end of the publisher’s anonymous dedication (to all ladies [Mesdames]). The copy was deliberately bound without the letterpress title; it also does not contain the (always optional) Tables of losses and wins at the gaming table, announced in the subtitle. Copies apparently differed, and the almanac may have been reissued periodically. Some copies include a section of music, according to Grand-Carteret, who dates the almanac to 1789, whereas Cohen-de Ricci dated it to 1781. Both their copies seem to have also lacked a letterpress title: OCLC locates only the BnF copy, with the letterpress title, dated 1778 (it is digitized on Gallica but without the plates).
Bengesco, Voltaire, Bibliographie de ses Oeuvres IV: 2238; Cohen-de Ricci 37-38 (7 or 8 plates); Grand-Carteret 611 (7 plates). Item #2690e