8vo (192 x 120 mm). 566 pages. 5 leaves are cancels, as called for in the Avis au relieur on the last page (the 5 cancels were originally the last 5 leaves of the final quire). Marginal tear to pp. 399-400, not affecting text. Contemporary French gold-tooled morocco, covers tooled with a triple rule frame enclosing a wide dentelle border incorporating emblems of the Freemasons (compasses & squares), stars, shooting stars, and a pair of shaking hands, fleurs-de-lys at corners, at center a large double-ruled Masonic triangle whose band is filled with pointillé dots, inner triangle with a shooting star at each corner and the initial P at center; spine in six gold-tooled compartments with title and date in two compartments, large and small fleurs-de-lys in the others, gilt edges, blue endpapers; in fine condition (small light dark spot to upper cover, a couple of other insignificant small marks). 20th-century leather-backed cloth folding case. Provenance: small booklabel inside folding box, “Bibliophilia / AG / Bern,” with an image of a binding press. ***
A fine Masonic binding on the Almanach royal for 1773.
This was an important year for the Freemasons in France. In 1773 they reorganized their disparate and in the past often schismatic loges into one hierarchically organized Grand Orient de France, whose grand master was none other than Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, later known as Philippe-Egalité for his support of radical reform of the French monarchical system. Masonic lodges, open to bourgeois and artisans as well as aristocrats, were in many parts of France a venue for new social connections and the philosophical opening toward new ideas, and they were to take an active part in the elections to the Estates General in 1789. Nevertheless, as the Revolution intensified, the dangers of being associated with an exclusive, secretive and originally aristocratic club were not lost on Louis-Philippe, who renounced his position in the winter of 1793; this had little effect on his terrible fate (he was guillotined less than 9 months later).
The dentelle of this well-preserved binding is built up from individual tools, unlike the Dubuisson bindings that decorate so many Almanachs royaux. The significance of the initial P is unknown (to me).
Women and atheists are still excluded from this “charitable fraternity,” but masonic bindings continue to be collected by binding collectors of all feathers. Item #4232