3 p.l., iv, 39 pp. 18mo (142 x 96 mm.), cont. brown sheep-backed boards (extremities a trifle worn), uncut. London: Ballintine & Byworth, 1811.
One of 100 copies, privately printed; this is a bibliophilic re-publication of Fénelon’s elegant dialogues on the importance of a ruler engaging with and actively promoting the fine arts. Initially meant for private distribution only, this edition was printed in three issues: 50 copies in 18mo, 40 on grand papier, and 10 on colored paper.
Fénelon (1651-1715), archbishop of Cambrai and an esteemed writer and theologian, originally composed these two imagined dialogues at the end of the 17th century. He gave the manuscript to the painter Pierre Mignard (1612-95), but never published the work in his lifetime. These dialogues finally appeared in print for the first time as an appendix to Monville’s scarce La vie de Pierre Mignard… (1730).
The first of Fénelon’s dialogues takes place between Poussin and the Greek painter Parrhasius. They discuss the former’s Funeral of Phocion (Louvre). The second dialogue is between Poussin and da Vinci, and touches upon Poussin’s Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake (National Gallery, London).
The present edition was undertaken by Samuel Weller Singer (1783-1858), a literary scholar and great bibliophile, whose initials are found at the end of the Avertissement. He started working with his mother in the feather and flower business, but his interest in literature led him to become a bookseller, opening on St. James’s Street. He counted legendary collectors like Heber, Grenville, and Douce as his clients. This work, which he also edited, was his first privately circulated publication.
In near fine condition. With a catalogue entry clipping pasted on the front endpaper. WorldCat records just one example in the United States, at the Yale Center for British Art (on grand papier). The Royal Academy’s copy is printed on pink paper.
Item ID: 7958