One of the most precious known copies of the Grand Cyrus
by Mademoiselle de Scudéry,
the only one listed in contemporary vellum
with the arms of Louis-François Vireau des Espoisses,
seigneur de Villeflix, maître de la chambre aux deniers du Roi.
Mademoiselle de Scudéry. (1608-1701). Artamene ou le Grand Cyrus. Dédié à Madame la Duchesse De Longueville. Par M. De Scudéry, Gouverneur de Nostre Dame de la Garde.
Rouen et se vend à Paris, Augustin Courbé. Avec Privilège du Roy. 1654.
10 volumes 8vo [179 x 115 mm] of 16 ll. and 543 pp (Part I). 678 pp ; 662 pp. ; 644 pp. ; 668 pp. ; 719 pp. ; 684 pp. ; 677 pp. ; 654 pp. ; 784 pp. ; the whole illustrated with 10 frontispieces, 1 portrait of Melle de Scudery and 30 figures by Chauveau.
Ivory vellum, arms stamped in gilt in center of the covers, central crown scratched during the Revolution, lettering piece in red morocco added and glued in the 18th century and removed in the 20th century.
Contemporary armorial binding.
The most precious edition of the Grand Cyrus, the only one where the 10 volumes are all dated from 1654 without mention of edition. It remained unknown to all of the biographers: Deschamps mentions only one edition dated both from 1653 and 1654.
Tchemerzine describes a first edition whose volumes spread from 1650 to 1656 with the parts 1 to 5 bearing “second edition”. He describes three posterior editions “but they contain books all with different dates”.
This masterpiece by the illustrious “précieuse” Madeleine de Scudery (1608-1701) was extremely popular during the second half of the 17th century and was translated into English, German, Italian, Spanish and even Arab.
It owed its fortune to its romanesque and sentimental character and to the fact that its heroes could be linked to famous people from the time. Mlle de Scudéry was one of the most illustrious “précieuses” ; on her famous Saturdays, she hosted all of the most beautiful minds of the court and the city. She undertook, with her brother Georges, a series of novels inspired by history, the Rome of the kings for Clélie, where lies the famous “Tenderness card”, or Ancient Persia for Le Grand Cyrus.
Le Grand Cyrus is a roman à clef and Victor Cousin, who studied French society at the beginning of the 17th century, found most of the people involved: the Grand Cyrus is the Grand Condé, Mandane is the la duchesse de Longueville, Philonide, Julie d’Angennes. Mlle de Scudery is herself present under the name Sapho. The characters are finely drawn. The traits had to be both exact and measured since the real individuals recognized themselves and were quite satisfied with their portraits.
When it was published, this collection of famous conversations became a manual of good society.
What is truly feminine about this book is how precious love is portrayed. For an entire generation, Le Cyrus was the manual of perfect love. All of the hôtel de Rambouillet recognized themselves in Cyrus.
Mademoiselle de Scudéry’s fame was not contained to her own country; the queen Christina honored her with her friendship, letters and donations; the academy of the Ricovrati in Padua admitted her into its ranks.
The duc de St-Aignan, whom madame de Sévigné called the paladin par éminence, M. and Madame du Plessis-Guénégaud, the poet Sarrasin, Godeau, Ysarn, Madame Arragonais and Madame d’Aligre her daughter, and finally Chapelain, made up, with other less known individuals, Mademoiselle de Scudery’s intimate circle. They all adopted a name from a novel. Madame Arragonais was princesse Philoxène, Madame d’Aligre Télamire, Sarrasin Polyandre, Conrart Théodamas, Pellisson Acante or the Chroniqueur because he was charged with writing the society’s annals; M. de Guénégaud Alcandre, and his wife Amalthée ; the duc de St-Aignan was called Artaban, Ysarn, the author of Louis d’or, took the name of Zénocrate ; M. de Raincy the one of the prince Agathyrse ; the spiritual abbess of Malnoue, Octavie ; Godeau, le nain de Julie, was also called le Mage de Sidon, and sometimes also le Mage de Tendre.
The most celebrated day of the gallant annals was Saturday Decembre 20th 1653. Conrart had given Mademoiselle de Scudéry a crystal seal, accompanied by a madrigal. Sapho answered with these verses:
Pour mériter un cachet si joli,
Si bien gravé, si brillant, si poli,
Il faudrait avoir, ce me semble,
Quelque joli secret ensemble ;
Car enfin les jolis cachets
Demandent de jolis secrets,
Ou du moins de jolis billets ;
Mais, comme je n’en sais point faire,
Que je n’ai rien qu’il faille taire.
Ou qui mérite aucun mystère,
Il faut vous dire seulement
Que vous donnez si galamment,
Qu’on ne peut se defender
De vous donner son cœur, ou de le laisser prendre.
This poem was received with great enthusiasm by those present: Pellisson, Sarrasin, Conrart, Mademoiselle Arragonais, Madame d’Aligre, they all improvised a madrigal. To which other madrigals answered, more gallant from one to the next, and the evening came to be known as the “Day of the madrigals”.
With Le Grand Cyrus, Madeleine de Scudery inaugurated in French literature the psychological novel, that would be one of our most authentic glories.
A copy of unknown condition for Tchemerzine including all of the volumes at the same date and bound in contemporary armorial vellum, coming from Louis-François Vireau des Espoisses, seigneur de Villeflix, who was maître de la chambre aux deniers du roi. (Olivier Pl. 1362)