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Le Vendangeur, ou le Jardin d'amour, poème traduit littéralement de l'italien de L. Tansillo
Paris: An VIII. Very Good+. 1800. Second Edition. Hardcover. 1 p.l., 8, 126 & (8, ads) pages; Contemporary binding: black (roan?) leather spine over black pattern-printed boards, flat spine with title and modest decorative stamping in gilt, marbled endpapers, edges of the text block decoratively sprinkled. A lovely binding of the early French Republic era, showing only minor rubbing along the edges (a bit of pinching at the center of the fore-edges of the covers -- probably tied up with string at some point). A fresh, pleasant copy, with a few leaves showing irregular deckle edges (and very thin paper on the second, "Italian" title page). This is a charming translation into French of a poem written by Luigi Tansillo, (first published in 1534). The author was born in Venosa in 1510 and died in 1568 in Teano (Caserta). He functioned both as a soldier in the armies of several rulers, among them Emperor Charles V and Don Pedro of Toledo, and as a court poet... not a common paring of occupations. After a few juvenile works, Tansillo wrote "Il Vendemmiatore" (The grapepicker) in 1532, which enjoyed immediate success and caused a scandal. The trouble was that the author used viticultural, agricultural and gardening metaphors erotically -- to sing of the joys of physical love. The Inquisition caused Tansillo's sexy poem to be put on the Index. As might be expected, Tansillo reacted at once and asked Pope Paul IV for forgiveness for his "errore giovanile." He announced to the Pope (and other religious figures) that he intended to prepare a lengthy work on the more pius subject -- "Lagrime di San Pietro." Having spent about twenty years after his youthful indiscretion soldiering and writing an account of a sea voyage, Tansillo turned to this subject in 1559 and devoted the rest of his life to the tears... That pious work will live forever in musical history, since Tansillo's text was adopted by the great Orlando di Lasso for his masterwork. Back to "Il Vendemmiatore" -- the first edition, now extremely rare, appeared in 1534. There were several editions later in the sixteenth century. In Paris, in 1790, an edition (in the original Italian ottave rime) appeared, under the fictitious imprint: "Peking, nel XVIII secolo." A French translation by Grainville appeared in a tiny booklet in 1792, followed by this larger translation by Claude-François-Xavier Mercier (which first appeared in 1798, or "an VI"). Mercier was born in Compiègne (Oise ) on 1 August 1763 and died in Paris in 1800. He became known for satirical and libertine works. In youth, he served as secretary to Chevalier Louis de Jaucourt, the wealthy private scholar who is famous for having written at least 25 percent of the text of the 'Encyclopédie.' Between 1759 and 1765 he wrote an average of eight encyclopedia articles per day, for a total of 17,266 out of 71,818 articles (totalling, by one account, nearly 5 million words!). de Jaucourt was, by far, the single most prolific contributor to Encyclopédie; all produced without payment. One can assume that young C. F. Mercier quickly learned to write on many subjects -- very, very fast. His wealthy patron died in 1779, and Mercier then turned to working as a secretary in the French Royal Navy. He did write several pieces for publication in the continuing annual series "L'Almanach des Muses." At the time of the Revolution, he found himself without resources (as French Wikipedia puts it...) and wrote a bunch of books and pamphlets quickly, and opened a bookshop to attempt to flog his wares. This work is an especially charming and finished product of his motivated attempt to satisfy the French market's enthusiastic pursuit of dirty (ish) books... let us agree to call it erotica. There is a handsome engraved frontispiece -- three charming, albeit fully clothed, women are at the center, with three men picking grapes, while admiring the view. The Italian text and Mercier's French version appear on facing pages throughout. The first edition appeared in 1798, with the following vague imprint: "A Paris : Chez les marchands de nouveautés, an VI." But in our second edition from 1800, Mercier fesses up to proprietorship: "Paris : chez l'auteur, Redacteur du Furet Littéraire, rue d'Angevilliers, No. 151. An VIII (1800)." It is worth noting that Mercier also inserts a plug for an annual he intends to edit and publish -- under the unusual name of the "Ferret of Literature." Luckily, the Bibliotheque Nationale preserved a copy of the only issue of this publication ["Le furet littéraire, ou les fleurs du Parnasse, recueil des plus rares ouvrages, poèmes, odes, contes et nouvelles, suivis d'une notice complette des poètes français, anciens et modernes... A Paris, chez Mercier, an VIII.] Mercier also changed the word order of his title when preparing this 1800 edition. On the verso of the title page, Mercier has slightly re-worded his legal statement of responsibility for the edition, and that he has supplied the requisite pair of copies to the Bibliotheque Nationale, etc. He has removed the statement that all copies were to be signed by him to prevent contrefaçon. And he has changed the date from "le 25 Messidor, an six" [13 July 1798] to "le 26 germinal, an 8." [16 April 1800]. Otherwise, the frontispiece, and all the leaves following the title leaf are exactly as they were in the 1798 first edition. There is one convincing bit of evidence that the sheets were just two year old stock with a new, up-to-date title page, as even the single erratum mentioned at the foot of the final leaf of text remains uncorrected -- (which would have required changing just one letter of one word, or even just a flick of a pen). It seems likely that Mercier wanted to freshen his offerings and sell this as a fresh new product for le 26 germinal, an 8. He does also add the form of his name mentioning his native city, contrary to the statement in the Bibliotheque Nationale's "Notice d'autorité personne" -- [ "Seul son nom, Mercier, apparaît sur ses impressions, mais il est connu comme écrivain sous le nom de Mercier de Compiègne"]. There is a final gem at the end of our copy of this 1800 "second edition" -- an 8 page catalogue of Mercier's publications and stock, issued from his old address: "Le 25 Messidor, An VI. Livres de Fonds et d'assortiment, qui se trouvent chez C. F. Mercier, LIBRAIRE-EDITEUR,Rue du Champ-Fleuri, n° 97." This catalogue appears to be a rarity; I cannot find another copy -- [none in the Bibliotheque Nationale, OCLC, COPAC, EUROPEAN LIBRARY search, etc.] The catalogue includes selections from his stock, but Mercier helpfully marks his own works as an author with an asterisk. The first item listed is the present work ("tiré a très-peu d'exemplaires"). Oddly enough, he does not list his own work that is most frequently reprinted: 'Éloge du sein des femmes. Ouvrage curieux dans lequel on examine s'il doit être découvert, s'il est permis de le toucher, quelles sont ses vertus, son langage, son éloquence, le pays où il est le plus beau et les moyens les plus sûrs de le conserver.' (but it appears that this classic may have appeared posthumously, in 1803). Sadly, Mercier died in the same year as this new (yet unimproved) version of his "Le Vendangeur" appeared. French Wikipedia tells us that the revolutionary "Convention" carried his name on the register of men of letters to whom a small public remittance was doled-out, so his efforts as a bookseller, publisher, writer, and so forth, seem not to have made his fortune. Both editions of his Tansillo translation are now quite scarce. This 1800 edition is OCLC Number: 468686601 (locating only the Bibliotheque Nationale copy). Brunet V, 653-4 (cites the 1798 edition). And finally, the observations on viticulture and wine-making, however allegorical their intent, did not escape the notice of André Simon (Gastronomica 1445). I hesitate to pronouce Mercier's 8-page bookseller's catalogue at the end "unique" -- but has anyone seen, or recorded, another copy? .
      [Bookseller: Antiquarian Book Shop]
Last Found On: 2017-07-18           Check availability:      Biblio    

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