Neraïr et Melhoé, conte ou histoire. Ouvrage orné de disgressions. Henri Barthelemy de BLANES, or Claude PARFAICT.

Neraïr et Melhoé, conte ou histoire. Ouvrage orné de disgressions.

Paris? Chez rue a l'enseigne, n.d. but probably 1740.

Two volumes, small octavo; contemporary French mottled calf, spines gilt compartments with double labels.

Half-way between Utopia and the South Land

Very rare: a southern hemisphere utopia set on the island of Zinzinard, midway between Utopia and the Land of the Severambes (the imaginary kingdom of Vairasse, set in the Great South Land). This location is more knowing than exact, but the author was clearly encouraging his readers to believe place his world of fairies and courtiers was in the further reaches of the Indian Ocean.

Very rare: a southern hemisphere utopia set on the island of Zinzinard, midway between Utopia and the Land of the Severambes (the imaginary kingdom of Vairasse, set in the Great South Land). This location is more knowing than exact, but the author was clearly encouraging his readers to believe place his world of fairies and courtiers was in the further reaches of the Indian Ocean.

The work is uncommon enough to have been missed by most of the standard bibliographers. Continued research by Ray Howgego and others has all but proven that this is the first edition, probably published in 1740 (and not later than 1744). It was clearly something of an underground classic, published in several editions, including a German translation (1747) and, slightly altered, with the new title Le Miroir, ou histoire griguenodine in a bogus Venice imprint which was vigorously suppressed. To be fair, at this distance, precisely which aspect of the novel annoyed the censor seems hard to discern. The authorship remains speculative, but the most likely contender remains the cavalry officer Henri Barthélemy de Blanes (c.1707-1754), although this does not particularly explain the curious note on the title-page to the effect that it was written when the author was aged 60 years old.

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Ray Howgego has deepened our understanding of the history of this work: the author is thought to have been Henri Barthélemy de Blanes (c.1707-1754) who was born in the Auvergne and was mestre de camp of a cavalry regiment; nothing more is known of him, our only source of information being a passing mention in volume 47 of Charles-Joseph Mayer's, Le Cabinet des Fées (1786). However, authorship of Neraïr et Melhoë remains uncertain, and more than twenty-five years were to pass before any name would be associated with the book, beginning with Catalogue des Livres provenans de la Bibliothèque de M.L.D.D.L.V., vol. 2 (Paris, 1767). The recently published Correspondance de Madame de Graffigny: 23 octobre 1744 - 10 septembre 1745 contains several references to the book, but Françoise de Gaffigny, novelist and playwright, laments her ignorance of the author, stating only that he is 'a friend of Ponteval' [Antoine de Fériol, comte de Pont-de-Veyle]. An alternative attribution frequently made to the theatre historian Claude Parfaict (1701?-1777) seems unlikely. Parfaict wrote nothing of a similar nature, and it appears that the sole source of this perpetuated mis-attribution is a librarian's note in the Catalogue des Livres de la Bibliothèque de Feu M. de Lamoignon, published in 1791.

The unusual imprint of the work, together with the relatively incomplete listings available, has led to some confusion over both dates and authorship. The original date of publication is unknown, the publisher's imprint telling us only that it was in 'l'an de l'âge de l'auteur, LX' which itself throws suspicion on De Blanes who died at forty-seven. Le Cabinet des Fées dates the book to 1759, but the Graffigny correspondence clearly indicates that the book was in widespread circulation around 1744, which is probably closer to the date of publication. The journal Die Neue Europäische Fama first lists it in 1746. A now very rare German translation appeared at Bremen and Leipzig in 1747 as Der Stutzer nach der Mode [the follower of fashion?], and a second French edition of two volumes in one can be dated precisely to 1748. Another edition of two volumes in one was printed under the title Le Miroir, ou histoire griguenodine with the false imprint 'Venise' [Venice]. It is known that in 1749 all copies of this "Venise" edition were seized by the state and the bookseller Vente imprisoned in the Bastille. Any remaining copies, only two of which could be found, are overstamped with a government 'health warning'. It is also significant that the 1748 edition was printed in duodevicesimo (18o), which is usually a fair indication that the book had by then gone 'underground'.

Provenance: With the bookplate of Robert Garrisson.

Barbier, III, p. 410; NUC lists 2 copies, ICN (1747) & CTY (1761).

Condition Report: Some wear to extremities.

Price (AUD): $2,400.00

US$1,803.83   Other currencies

Ref: #3005377

Condition Report