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Les Essais,

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The reference edition of Montaigne’s Essais :
The precious complete first edition of Montaigne’s Essais
edited by Marie de Gournay, the author’s “spiritual daughter”.

It is enlarged by a third and sets the definitive text of the Essais.
Paris, 1595.


Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de. Les Essais de Michel seigneur de Montaigne. Edition nouvelle, trouvéeaprès le deceds de l’Autheur, revue & augmentée par luy d’un tiers plus qu’aux precedentes Impressions.
Paris, Abel l’Angelier, 1595.

Folio [337 x 218 mm] of (12) ll., 523 pp. and 231 pp., (1) p. of errata on two columns of 24 and 25 lines.

Red morocco, motifs à la Duseuil on the covers, richly decorated ribbed spine, double gilt fillets on leading edges, inner gilt roll-stamp, gilt over marbled edges, some foxing, tiny marginal restorations on the title and some ll. 19th century binding.

The precious complete first edition of Montaigne’s Essais edited by Marie de Gournay, the author’s “spiritual daughter”.

It sets the definitive text of this monument of Renaissance literature.

The first edition, published in 1580, contained the first two books; book III was published in 1588.

Tchemerzine, IV, 876 et III, 460 ; Sayce, 7a ; Philippe Desan, Bibliotheca Desaniana, 21 ; Le Petit, 102-105 ; Picot, Catalogue du Baron J. de Rothschild, I, 141 ; Bulletin Morgand et Fatout, 8961 ; En Français dans le texte, n°73.

The discovery of a greatly annotated copy of the 1588 edition of the Essais, found after Montaigne’s death on the 13th of September 1592, is at the origin of this commented and enlarged edition given by Mademoiselle de Gournay, “adoptive daughter” of Montaigne, in collaboration avec the poet from Bordeaux Pierre de Brach.

It contains the 1409 additions taken from Montaigne’s personal copy; this edition thus represents the first complete posthumous edition of the Essais.

“In total, there are 1409 additions from the 1588 edition : 369 for the first book, 545 for the second and 495 for the third.” (Philippe Desan)

This first edition given by Mademoiselle de Gournay, established according to Montaigne’s manuscripts, is enlarged by a third and contains an apologetic preface that Mademoiselle de Gournay did not reproduce in the following editions up to 1617. It sets the definitive text of the Essais.”

In most copies, the pp. 63-64 and 69-70 are boarded. The board of p. 63 is an addition of 22 lines that starts like this: “Car qui se mesle de choisir et de changer… et finissant…” (Tchemerzine)

This edition was shared between Abel L’Angelier and Michel Sonnius. These last copies do not include Montaigne’s preface : “C’est icy un livre de bonne foi”.

The copy from the issues done by Abel L’Angelier, before the boards on pages 63-64 and 69, with the errata in a second state (with 49 errors) and titled Fautes à corriger en l’Impression de quelques Exemplaires. Sayce indicates that the second state of the errata is rarer than the first.

This book remains, still today, the main edition of Montaigne’s Essais for the authenticity of the text.

Such is M. J. F. Payen’s judgement in his bibliographical note on Montaigne.

The Essais, which assimilated and transmitted to us, in a simple form, all of the knowledge of Ancient Greece is, at the same time, the first and most decisive modern text.”

The Essais is one of the most important books of the premodern era.” (Dictionnaire des lettres françaises)

A precious copy before the boards, including the errata leaf and the complete preface by Montaigne « C’est icy un livre de bonne foi » that is only found in the copies published by Abel L’Angelier.

From the libraries of Raoul Simonson and Wolvenbosch, with ex-libris.

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