Item #4312 Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie. MANUSCRIPT COMMONPLACE BOOK —.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie.
A look back

Recueil de différens Morceaux de Poésie. [France, not before 1809].

Small 4to (204 x 137 mm.). 88 [of 90] leaves, paginated [1]-106 111-118 123-182 pp. The gap between 106 and 111 is an error; pp. 119-122 were removed. 19 pages are blank except for borders. Written in brown ink in what appears to be a single, mostly very neat cursive; a few passages with crossings out, inserts, or corrections. A few pages in double column. Stenciled floral ornaments, various stenciled or manuscript dividers in text, about half of the leaves with type ornament page borders, the remaining half with stenciled ornamental borders, stenciled pagination at top. Laid paper. Contemporary straight-grained red morocco, sides with gold-tooled vine borders, smooth spine gold-tooled in six compartments, the second with gilt title (Recueil de Poésies), the remainder with gold-stamped emblems of the arts, a flower, and a flower basket, signed by Lefebvre at foot of spine (light scuffing), gilt edges, marbled endpapers. Provenance: one piece signed Dupont.***

A manuscript commonplace book and poetry collection, focusing on the 18th century, and containing approximately 200 original verses, popular epigrams, extracts from favorite authors, humorous quotations, word games, mildly erotic verses or quips, and notes on interesting facts. The compiler, an unnamed male member of the French educated classes, seems to have had a collector’s philological or historical interest in preserving many of these popular and often orally transmitted texts.

The manuscript is neatly divided into five parts, including the final “Explanatory notes,” each with its own section title and table of incipits at front. The first part, “Songs, epigrams, and madrigals,” contains short, often humorous verses, many to be sung to popular melodies, epigrams on subjects of the day, politics, or people (explained in the notes at the end), jokes and riddles. The second part (“Various poems”) contains longer verses, some on more serious subjects. Throughout, many of the poems are on amorous themes, and most have a satirical edge, making fun of marriage, fidelity, or human vanity. A number of the shorter verses are epigrams mocking individuals whose identities are barely or not at all disguised; one, for example, a dig at the homosexuality of Frederick II, is titled “Epigr. s. le Roi de P. soup. de ne pas aim. les f.,” easily decipherable as “Epigramme sur le Roi de Prusse soupçonné de ne pas aimer les femmes” ["epigram on the King of Prussia suspected of not liking women"]). Authors cited (among whom Voltaire and Rousseau appear most frequently) are all pre-Revolutionary, but the latest date mentioned, near the end, is 1809. Even if it had been written out over a period of years, the paper and binding place the manuscript in the first years of the 19th century. The binder Lefebvre was a “nephew or son-in-law of one of the Bozérians” and worked in their style; his activity was documented from 1809 to 1826 (Ramsden, French Bookbinders 1789-1848, p. 123).

The third part (pp. 117-152), contains “unrefined” (”non chatiés”) or risqué pieces. The first two poems, perhaps the compiler’s own, make fun of the discoveries of “abbé Spalanzini”: Lazzaro Spallanzani, the first scientist to perform in vitro fertilization (with frogs), and artificial insemination (on a dog). The second of these two poems uses George Washington as a speculative example of how greatness could be propagated throughout the world by the simple export of semen. Other verses are more conventionally bawdy, such as the riddle clearly describing a male phallus but whose answer is a mole. The subject of many is the immortal French anti-hero the cocu (cuckold). The mother of Mme de Pompadour is the subject of an epigram. Notwithstanding the innocuous nature of most of these verses, the two missing leaves, containing pp. 119-122, may have been too crude for a later reader, who tore them out.

Many of the entries in all the sections are keyed, in different ink, to the notes at the end. In these notes the compiler provides historical background, and, interestingly, defenses of some of the women who were the object of mockery, notably Mme de Maintenon, Mme de Pompadour, and Mme de Genlis (whom, after deploring her appointment as governess to his children by the Duc d’Orleans, her probable lover, the compiler praises as the most cultured, well-educated and devoted individual that the Duke could have found in all of France [pp. 178-179]).

The final section contains population statistics, including the final page, on the population of Paris in 1809, notes on gambling, on the composition and possessions of the French clergy, on the income to be expected from the Opera based on the number of spectators, on a new fire pump at Chaillot, on the state of finances in England in 1804, and on French pronunciation. This section also contains an “anagramme assez particulière sur les mots Révolution française”: the anagram refers to a Corsican who will end it (the Revolution). This is one of the only mentions of the Revolution in the manuscript.

The passage on the game of roulette (p. 156) is a mathematically based argument that the gamblers will lose to the bankers over time; it is signed by “Dupont,” who certifies that he spent 8 days observing the game in a named casino in Paris. It has been suggested (by our source) that this passage, along with the demographic and statistical passages in this section, may point to the identity of the compiler as the administrator and banker Jean Dupont (1736-1819), who became director of the central bank (Caisse d'escompte du commerce) after the Revolution, then mayor of the 7th arrondissement in Paris; he was named member of the Senate in 1807 by imperial decree, and count of the Empire in 1808. But, given the latter’s high station at this time, it seems unlikely that this was the same Dupont who hung around a gambling den for a week.
Item #4312

Price: $2,800.00