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[Le Siège de la Rochelle],

5, 800 



Very rare first edition of Siege de La Rochelle undertaken by Richelieu in 1627-1628 preserved in its first contemporary vellum binding, printed in La Rochelle.

The personal copy of Grand Judge Régnier, Minister of Justice of Napoleon from 1802 to 1813.

La Rochelle, 1644.


Richelieu. [Le Siège de La Rochelle].
Journal des choses plus Mémorables, qui se sont passées au dernier Siege de la Rochelle.
La Rochelle : s.n., [1644].

8vo of (1) l., 324 pp., (2) ll. ; contemporary vellum, one damaged corner, some contemporary handwritten notes.
183 x 110 mm.

Very rare first edition printed in La Rochelle in 1644, of this work by Pierre Mervault, from La Rochelle.

Born in 1608, the author was the son of Paul Mervault, artillery master during the siege. The work is mentioned in these terms by Arcère in his “Histoire de la Rochelle” published in 1757: “Witness of everything that happened in the besieged city, [Mervault] kept an exact register from which he composed a diary from his observations and various particularities that he had learned from his father… it is from this type of sources that a historian draws the truth, much better than from the narration of a writer. » The diary begins in July 1627 and ends in November 1628. In July 1628, “the famine began to be horrible…, there was a rush for hides & skins of all kinds which were soaked & boiled, & the cut them into small pieces instead of beef breast…, fry them with a little tallow and water in the pan. The work would be reprinted in 1648 and 1671. (Brunet III, 1663).

The Siege of La Rochelle was part of the fight led by Louis XIII and Richelieu against the Protestants, in the desire to submit them to royal authority and to prevent them from constituting a “State within a State”.
This policy led to a real war in 1627 and the investment of La Rochelle.
The port constituted one of the places of safety granted by the Edict of Nantes and allows the Protestant party to communicate with the English.
Richelieu, with the title of lieutenant general of the armies, attended the operations in person. A 12-kilometer trench surrounds the city. To prevent the besieged from being resupplied by the British fleet, which had made landings on the Île de Ré, the cardinal had an enormous dike built, 1,500 meters long and 8 meters wide, bristling with artillery pieces. The English, commanded by the Duke of Buckingham, tried in vain to set fire to the walls.

The resistance of La Rochelle would last fourteen months. It was led by the mayor, Guiton, who has vowed to drive a dagger into the heart of the first person who speaks of surrender. A terrible famine decimated the city’s population. Soon, there were only 5,000 skeletal survivors, exhausted, out of 27,000 inhabitants. Cases of cannibalism were increasing. The assassination of Buckingham, in his quarters at Portsmouth, contributed to the discouragement of the besieged. After the failure of British relief attempts, the Rochelais finally capitulated in the fall of 1628. On October 27, six delegates from the city appeared before Richelieu asking for “a peace treaty and not a pardon and a pardon”, but the cardinal remained inflexible and just promised the people of Rochelle “life, the enjoyment of their property and the free exercise of their religion”.

The defeated had to sign the text he dictated to them.

Exemplaire conservé dans sa première reliure en vélin de l’époque provenant de la bibliothèque du grand juge Régnier, ministre de la Justice de Napoléon Ier de 1802 à 1813.

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