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CYRANO DE BERGERAC, Savinien de

[Recueil]. Les Œuvres diverses

Paris, Charles de Sercy, 1659

REMARKABLE AND VERY RARE COLLECTION : THE ENTIRE WORK OF CYRANO DE BERGERAC ASSEMBLED BY A CONTEMPORARY READER, BETWEEN 1661 AND 1662.

NAMELY : THE ŒUVRES DIVERSES WITH THEIR LETTRES, HIS THEATER WITH LA MORT D’AGRIPPINE AND LE PÉDANT JOUÉ, WHICH WOULD INFLUENCE HIS FRIEND MOLIÈRE FOR LES FOURBERIES DE SCAPIN, AND ESPECIALLY THE FAMOUS HISTOIRE COMIQUE DES ÉTATS ET EMPIRES DE LA LUNE.

ONE OF THE FIRST MASTERPIECES OF SCIENCE FICTION WRITTEN BY ONE OF THE GREAT MARGINAL POETS OF FRENCH LITERATURE, ONE OF THE “DECLASSED” OF THE “GRAND SIÈCLE” (MADELEINE ALCOVER), AN EXCEPTIONAL RADICAL.

COPY FREE OF ANY RESTORATION, IN ITS ORIGINAL CONDITION : “AN UNSOPHISTICATED COPY”.

ESSENTIAL TO EVERY COLLECTION OF LITERATURE

[with :] (2) : La Mort d’Agrippine. Tragédie par Mr Cyrano de Bergerac. Paris, Charles de Sercy, 1661 ; (3) : Le Pédant joué. Comédie par M. de Cyrano Bergerac, Paris, Charles de Sercy, 1658 ; (4) : Histoire comique par Monsieur de Cyrano Bergerac. Contenant les Estats & Empires de la Lune. Paris, Charles de Sercy, 1659

Second edition of the Œuvres diverses (first edition in 1654), they contain the Lettres de Cyrano ; third edition of La Mort d’Agrippine (first in 1654, second in 1656) ; second edition of Pédant joué (first in 1654) ; second edition of Histoire comique par Monsieur de Cyrano Bergerac. Contenant les Estats & Empires de la Lune (first edition in 1657)

4 works in one 12mo volume (146 x 85mm)
Vignettes engraved with fruit baskets or with the de Sercy typographic mark printed on the title pages. Wood engraved headpiece, initials and tailpiece
COLLATION : (1) : a6 A-O12 P6, A1r-P4v paginated 1-344 ; (2) : A-D12, A7v-D12r paginated 2-83 ; (3) : A-K12, with the last two leaves blank, A2v-K7v paginated 4-230 ; (4) : a12 e12 A-H12, A1r-H12r paginated 1-191
CONTENTS : (1) : a1r : title, a2r : dedication to the Duc d’Arpajon, a4r : sonnet to Mademoiselle d’Arpajon who had just entered the Carmel du faubourg Saint-Jacques in the summer of 1655, a5r : Table of “letters” announcing Le Pédant joué. Comédie en prose… I, A1r : text, P5r : authorization and colophon for the second time on October 10, 1658 ; (2) : A1r : title, A2r : dedicated to the Duc d’Arpajon, A5r : authorization, A6v : Actors, A7r : text ; (3) : A1r : title, A2v : Actors, A3r : text, K8r : authorization and colophon for the second time on August 1st, 1658 ; (4) : a1r : title, a2r : dedicated to Henry Le Bret, friend of Cyrano, à Messire Tanneguy Renault des Boisclairs, a5v : authorization of the King and colophon for the second time on March 8, 1659, a7r : preface
CONTEMPORARY BINDING. Brown calf, box in paper

RARITY : the very first editions of these four texts by Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac are very rare. Of these, Tchemerzine annotated by Lucien Scheler cites no copy each time. Among these four titles, the oldest occurrence noted by Tchermerzine-Scheler concerns the De Backer copy (1926) in modern boards, for États et Empires de la Lune in our edition of 1659. On the other hand, we come across them in some public libraries like the BnF which has them all. In the United States, Harvard owns an edition of the Œuvres diverses of 1659 (our edition) and one of the four known copies today of L’Histoire comique of 1657. The Library of Congress displays the Œuvres diverses in our edition of 1659. Yale only owns the 1662 edition of the Œuvres. Finally, neither Austin, nor the Universities of California (Melvyl), Princeton or Columbia has a primordial edition of Cyrano and therefore, a fortiori, of this essential text that is L’Histoire comique des États et Empires de la Lune. Finally, if the auction market has offered a few rare copies in later editions of one of the texts of this collection, it has never presented them together. Just one copy of États et Empire de la Lune in our edition of 1659 has gone through, isolated and lost, in an English sale. No copies in an earlier edition. For the Œuvres diverses, three copies of the 1654 edition were sold at auction, but each time lacked the portrait of the author which was required (cf. M. Alcover infra). With regard more specifically to the first edition of the Lune, Madeleine Alcover lists three manuscripts : at the BnF, Munich and Sydney. She only knows of four copies of the first edition of the Lune : BnF, Houghton Library (Harvard), Châlons-sur-Marne and one copy in a French collection. No notable copy is on the Berès files, except the 1654 Œuvres diverses sold by André Jammes in 1984. Absent in the catalogs of the Jean A. Bonna collection.

An important precision, there are no known autograph manuscripts nor autograph letters of Cyrano today. Only a few bearing his signature appear in rare public collections (“we do not own any autograph of Cyrano”, Œuvres complètes, Paris, 2011, ed. L. Erba, t. II, p. 23)

Sections L-M strongly browned (1), little 5mm diameters of paper missing from the center of O3 with a little loss of letters (1), P4.5 slightly unbound (1), sections D, G-H browned (3), the last work is lightly browned. The binding is worn and the spine has been completely missing for a long time, leaving the sewing visible

I had tied around me a number of dew-filled vials and the heat of the sun which attracted them, lifted me so high that at the end I found myself above the highest clouds.

Who was Cyrano de Bergerac ?

Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was born in Paris on March 6, 1619 and died on July 18, 1655 in Sannois, a town near Paris. He had nothing to do with the musketeers of Gascogne and Bergerac is not near Toulouse but a hamlet in the Chevreuse valley, near Paris. His father, Abel I de Cyrano, lord of Mauvières and a lawyer at the parliament of Paris, died in 1648. Beyond Edmond Rostand’s brilliant shortcuts, these last fifty years since 1970 have seen the emergence of a renewal of interest in France and abroad, in Cyrano and his work, with a profusion of theses, articles and essays. This is no place however, to examine Madeleine Alcover’s remarkable works of many years which shed new light on Cyrano’s works and life.

He was part of a family clan of Parisian officers of the justice dominated by the Feydeau uncles, and in particular Denys, allied to the Maupeous, all familiar with financial affaires and the tax farmers general. These important Parisian lineages would experience a constant ascending trajectory under the Ancien Régime, unlike the Cyrano de Bergerac nephews who would decline. The intellectual horizon of Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac’s early years within this family group is in any case in line with the development of Jansenism and therefore in a form of spiritual contestation of the established order. This spirituel particularism had no doubt already emerged in the avowed Protestantism of his paternal grandfather. Cyrano belonged to a family where an intense devotion reigned. Several members of his immediate family held a leading role in the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement or in other religious congregations. The non-reception of the Council of Trent by France had indeed greatly encouraged the development of these congregations. The writer would thus know of what devotion he would be speaking when launching his impieties.

For above all, Cyrano de Bergerac was a poet and writer. He would be vigorously marginal against the norm. This was precisely his interest at the threshold of classicism, even if his social background, which seemed to have claimed him back, would accompany him in death after his head injury. But despite the fruitful work of M. Alcover and many researchers, the mystery remains on Cyrano de Bergerac and his libertinism. In 1946 already, Maurice Blanchot had perceived the limits of a still embryonic knowledge and who at the time owed his great intuitions to the works of Frédéric Lachèvre : “What was Cyrano ? We don’t know ? He’s a character to whom we don’t have the key (…) Cyrano’s ideas are more or less those of the erudite libertines of his time : he disputes values, he scorns holy things and he speaks against God in a text which may have inspired Pascal” (pp. 60-61). As a result of the works of M. Alcover, we know above all “what he said no to”.

But one thing is certain today looking at Cyrano : his homosexuality. M. Alcover highlighted it in the form of this “gay trio” that he formed in the 1640s with Claude-Emmauel Luillier (1627-1686) known as Chapelle, and the remarkable poet and musician Charles Copeau d’Assoucy (1605-1677) or Dassoucy (cf. infra M. Alcover, “A gay trio : Chapelle, Cyrano, Dassoucy” in L’Autre au XVIIe siècle). “The emperor of burlesque”, as Dassoucy called himself, author of Ovide en belle humeur (1650), was the friend of Molière with whom he travelled between Avignon and Montpellier. He composed the music (since lost) for Andromède by Corneille. Present at Court, Dassoucy was the music master to the young Louis XIV. Cyrano would have a falling out with him between 1650-1651. Chapelle was a close nephew of Pierre Chanut, Descartes’ great correspondent and ambassador to Sweden, to where he brought the philosopher. In the 1660s, the author, with Bachaumont of the famous Voyage, became a great friend of Molière, according to the account given by the actor Baron to Grimarest, then to La Fontaine, Racine and Boileau. The “trio” would last a few years but then would come the time for insults.

Cyrano called Dassoucy an atheist, and vice versa. M. Alcover got her hands on the Méjanes Library (Aix-en-Provence) and a text of 1665 by Dassoucy that was particularly clear on Cyrano and Chapelle’s repugnance for the fair sex. And for M. Alcover : “Cyrano’s work is (…) full of his homosexuality (…) all the works, with the exception of La Mort d’Agrippine, contain allusions or explicit elements [to] male love (…) his testimony in favor of homosexuality is accompanied by a radical rebellion” (op. cit. infra, p. 272). Suffice to say that Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was indeed by a false legend, “locked up in virtue” and that like Sade he belonged to this “lineage of equivocal figures, these Hommes Noirs [Black Men] who were never known except as unknown. Surrealist, he nevertheless did have a serious defect : he was a tremendous writer” (M. Blanchot).

The origins of the work.

Les États et Empires de la Lune and the États et Empires du Soleil, that we will from now on call Lune and Soleil, form this diptych novel called L’Autre monde. Neither of them was published during the author’s lifetime.

With L’Histoire comique de la Lune and that of Soleil, Cyrano de Bergerac was not alone in inventing utopia. Today however, certain American critics consider him one of the founders of science-fiction novels :

“Cyrano de Bergerac can be said to be a forerunner of Voltaire. His Histoire comique des États et Empires de la Lune (1657) and Histoire comique des États et Empires du Soleil (1662), both volumes translated into English (…) combines ideas from the new discoveries in astronomy with satirical comments on religious and political beliefs of his day to produce two works that many science fiction scholars argue should be included in the canon of early science fiction masterpieces” (Bradford Lyau, The Anticipation novelists of 1950s French science fiction : stepchildren of Voltaire, Jefferson, 2011, p. 25).

We can also read on a virtual exhibition of the BnF : “Precursor of science-fiction, Cyrano gives the full measure of his overflowing imagination, his curiosity of mind and his freedom of thought in this novel”.

Cyrano also finds his place in a great lineage which begins with Rabelais and Thomas More. His innovating force consists in basing the authority of his utopian narrative on a scientific discourse that the discoveries of the first half of the 17th century, those of Kepler, Galilee, Descartes and Harvey, had made omnipresent.

“It was not he who had invented utopias. And in France, there had been Rabelais. He didn’t invent anything. He borrowed the substance from Gassendi and Descartes, the form from Thomas Morus, Campanella, Godwin. The details themselves belong to the author of Francion and Berger extravagant or to Ariosto. And yet, he has a fiery imagination and L’Autre monde is a book that still strikes by its strangeness and its novelty” (Maurice Blanchot, “L’Homme en noir du XVIIe siècle”, op. cit. infra, p. 56).

This power of the imagination specific to Cyrano’s text would delight Flaubert. It was Theophile Gautier who in Les Grotesques in 1844 was behind the rediscovery of Cyrano via the first Romantism. But Molière’s borrowed text and the theater by the author of Agrippine interested him more than the two fictions. Flaubert, on the other hand who was always insatiable and curious of all forms of reading would “tirelessly praise the “prodigious poetic talent” of Cyrano de Bergerac” (cf. M. Alcover, p. XV). Accordingly, he wrote to Louise Colet on June 26, 1852 : “I’m reading at this moment a charming and very beautiful thing, that is to say Les États de la Lune, by Cyrano de Bergerac. It is huge with fantasy and often with style”. On July 26, he again wrote to her : “I will bring you Cyrano. He is fanciful, this fellow, and a true one yet ! Which is quite uncommon”. A sign that he re-read the “Gaillard” in 1861, Flaubert wrote to Louis Bouilhet on June 22, speaking of Dassoucy : “I read his unbelievable friend Cyrano. What a fellow, and what contrast, like physical courage ! the États du Soleil are a pure masterpiece, at only an outline stage unfortunately”.

In March 1648, two Parisian booksellers put up for sale a book titled L’Homme dans la Lune, ou Le Voyage chimérique fait au Monde de la Lune, nouvellement découvert par Dominique Gonzalès, aventurier espagnol, autrement dit Le Courrier volant. Mis en notre langue par J.B.D. It was the translation (rather faithful) by Jean Baudoin of a novel by the Anglican bishop Francis Godwin, published in London ten years earlier under the title The Man in the Moone, or A Discourse of a Voyage thither, by Domingo Gonsales, The Speedy Messenger.

It is certain that Cyrano read this book from which he borrowed if not the idea itself, at least a great number of elements for his États et Empires de la Lune, of which a first version circulated in manuscript in the first months of 1650. This circulation among Cyrano’s close circle is attested by his friend Jean Le Royer de Prade (born in 1624) in two poems of his Œuvres poétiques (1650), and more specifically in a Sonnet dedicated to À l’auteur des États et Empires de la Lune :

Ton esprit qu’en son vol nul obstacle n’arrête
Découvre un autre monde à nos ambitieux”.

“Your spirit that in its flight no obstacle can stop
Discovers another world to our ambitious”

At a time when the manuscript circulation of a text anticipated and overflowed on its “first edition” – a somewhat anachronic notion when we consider the 17th century – we note that the two fictions of Cyrano de Bergerac do not obey the same status. The first, Lune, is known in three manuscripts, in Sydney, Munich and Paris. The first is preserved at the Fisher Library (published in 1995), the second at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (published in 1910) and the third is at the BnF. The latter was used as a reference for the publication of the Œuvres complètes by Madeleine Alcover at Honoré Champion. No manuscript is known today of the États et Empires du Soleil.

The manuscript of the second text, Soleil before disappearing, was stolen according to the friend Henry Le Bret, from Cyrano’s trunk during the illness which caused his death following his head accident. This second utopia was printed for the first time by Charles de Sercy in 1662 in accordance with the agreement with Cyrano’s brother, Abel II, his universal legatee. This date of 1662 represents a terminus ante quem in the constitution of our collection.

It in fact brings together four works whose succession does not follow a chronological order but which can be re-established as follows : Le Pédant joué (1658), La Lune (1659), Les Œuvres diverses (1659) and La Mort d’Agrippine (1661).

Le Pédant joué was never performed. Its action takes place at the Beauvais high school that Cyrano would have attended young. We especially remember this play thanks to Molière’s borrowed text which had used two scenes from it, all the while improving them for Les Fourberies de Scapin and more particularly the scene of the gallery (“Que Diable aller faire dans la galère d’un Turc”). The tragedy Agrippine was published for the first time before May 12, 1654. That Agrippine was performed is a certainty since we have Huyghens’ testimony on having seen it in Rouen on July 13, 1655. We think that it had already been performed by late 1653.

“In December 1653, Cyrano requested two privileges that he gave to Charles de Sercy for his tragedy Agrippine and his Œuvres diverses. Their first editions of 1654, both dedicated to the Duc d’Arpajon are superb quartos (…) a magnificent title page adorned with the mark of Sercy which faces a portrait of the author (…) the portrait is missing in most copies of Œuvres diverses” (M. Alcover, p. LVI-LVII).

Œuvres diverses were published for the first time in 1654. The Lettres were subject to censorship with the creation of boards in their typographical composition for anything which might offend the enemy Scarron, to whom Cyrano was not kind. Cyrano died on July 28, 1655 having consequently seen the first edition of Œuvres diverses, Pédant and Agrippine. The Œuvres diverses had even been printed during Cyrano’s delirium and confinement following the blow he had received on the head in January 1654 during the attack on his protector and patron, the Duc d’Arpajon’s carriage.

But at the author’s death the work had not yet come out ; remaining to be published were Lune (1657) and Soleil (1662). The trunk containing Cyrano’s manuscripts had supposedly gone missing during his illness. L’Histoire comique par Monsieur de Cyrano Bergerac, contenant les Estats et Empires de la Lune was published twenty months after the author’s death. The long preface by Le Bret is the only existing source concerning certain events of his life. Madeleine Alcover qualifies it as the “basic document for any biographical approach” (p. XXV).

This copy.

This copy is therefore remarkable and special : the collection of the only four works known at the time was compiled on the spot by an anonymous contemporary reader between 1661, the date of the publication of Agrippine, and 1662, the year of publication by Charles de Sercy of Soleil, the second utopia. It couldn’t be more contemporary.

Cyrano de Bergerac was read during his lifetime and a few years after his death by an admittedly restricted audience, as Madeleine Alcover assumes, but also an international one. Lettres was for example, translated into English in 1658. But the extreme rarity of the very first editions reaffirm the idea of a restrained reception. And this one underlines the precious nature of this copy even more.

“Cyrano wrote for an accomplice reader who would know his work from the printed editions (such as his Œuvres diverses published by the Parisian bookseller Charles de Sercy in 1654 or the États et Empires de la Lune that the latter published in 1657, two years after Cyrano’s death, which occurred on July 28, 1655), but also from the manuscript copies which previously circulated the text – and a text less subject to the requirements of censorship.” (Roger Chartier)

In 1657, now in the 12mo format, and without the portrait, Charles de Sercy published the first edition of Histoire comique des États et Empires de la Lune, then L’Histoire comique des États et Empires du Soleil in 1662. There remain three manuscript copies of the first utopia :

1. That of the Bibliothèque nationale de France by an “illiterate scribe” (Alcover) but of such a textual quality that Alcover gave it “the status of a vulgate version” (p. CXLVII, former Monmerqué collection, then New Acq. 4558) ;
2. That of the Bayerische Staatsbibliotheek (n° 420, Gall. 419) whose text “is as little corrected as it is badly transcribed” (Alcover) ;
3. That of the Fisher Library of Sydney (RB Add. Ms. 68) from the Chardin, Phillipps and F. Lachèvre collections, published by M. Sankey in 1995, of good textual quality but inferior to the manuscript of the BnF.

Madeleine Alcover was able to base her recent edition of the text of Lune on an in-depth study of the variations between the copies themselves and the printed text, to underline the un-redacted quality of the manuscript at the BnF. Today only four copies are known of the first edition of États et Empires de la Lune (1657), those of the BnF, the Houghton Library, the library of Châlons-sur-Marne and that of a private collection. The text of this first edition was amply censored by its publishers and doubtless by Henry Le Bret himself, Cyrano’s declared publisher, in order to suppress his violent remarks against Christianity, the clergy and power. M. Alcover is thus very clear : “the existence of four known versions of Lune, three manuscript and one printed dated 1657, and therefore posthumous, constitutes a real headache for Cyranian criticism when it is a question of establishing the role of the author, if there was a role, in the 1657 version” (Le Cyrano de Bergerac de Jacques Prévot, cf. infra, § 33). The circulation of manuscript copies could indeed be more controlled by the author’s relatives than that of a printed edition, by nature delivered to the public. The production of a text and the control of its circulation belonged to a collective network. It was true for Cyrano, as it was for Pascal, La Rochefoucauld or Madame de La Fayette. M. Alcover has shown that the deletions or additions to the first edition therefore owe more to an editorial work lead by Le Bret than to corrections by the author supposedly left as a legacy (cf. § 44).

In spite of these deletions, between the Lune of 1657 and the Soleil of 1652, Cyrano’s texts knew how to find their public ; the proof is this collection. For his unknown readers, we have specifically attached the composition of our copy. If this unknown reader had been able to add on the first edition of Soleil (1662), he would obviously have done so : “the years 1658-1659 were fruitful for Charles de Sercy who republished all the known works of Cyrano. The censured passages of Œuvres diverses have been put back” (Alcover, p. LXXX). If the work of Cyrano remained amputated of a large part of its vigor for a long time, since Lune was largely self-censured, the fact remains that basically : it knew how to find its public.

Leibniz himself, so enthusiastic of fiction, spoke in several places of “the inventiveness of Cyrano” when he describes the singular aptitudes of the solar creatures who don’t know pain and whose bodies can regenerate at leisure. The philosopher bases himself on Cyranian fiction to show that my body is not the best body possible. No one doubts that the author of the last pages of the Theodicy, where we see a divinity surging with great force, judging possible cases from a computer and multiple screens, would appreciate this famous and prophetic passage on lunar books.

“Upon opening the box, I found inside an I don’t-know-what of metal almost exactly like our clocks, full of an infinite number of small springs and imperceptible machines. It is a book, in all truth, but it is a miraculous book which has no leaves and no characters ; finally, it is a book where, to learn, the eyes are useless ; we only need ears. When someone therefore wants to read, he winds up, with a large quantity of all sorts of keys, this machine, then he turns the needle to the chapter he wishes to listen to and at the same time, he pulls out of this nut like from the mouth of a man or a musical instrument all the distinct and different sounds that serve between the great lunars, to the expression of language (…) When I had thought about this miraculous invention to make books, I was no longer surprised to see that the young men of that country possessed more knowledge at sixteen and eighteen than the grey beards of ours, for knowing how to read as soon as one speaks, they are never without reading material ; in their rooms, on walks, in town, when traveling, on foot, on horseback, they can have in their pockets, or hanging on the tree of their saddles, around thirty of these books that they only need to wind up a spring to hear just one chapter or even several, if they are in the mood to listen to a whole book : thus you have eternally around you all the great men, dead and alive, who speak to you in person.”

Finally, the work of Cyrano de Bergerac has nowadays been reintegrated into the United States in its subversive reality. It has, for example, been the subject of a fruitful article by Philippe Salazar, a remarkable seventeenth century scholar in the Who’s who in Gay and Lesbian history published by R. Aldrich and G. Wotherspoon : “Recent studies (…) have restored this original thinker to his prominence among the libertine avant-garde of the first half of the seventeenth century, in the great Paduan tradition.”

REFERENCES : En Français dans le texte, n°97 (pour l’édition originale de 1657) -- R. Aldrich et G. Wotherspoon, Who’s who in Gay & Lesbian history, pp. 51-52, remarquable article de Philippe Salazar (nous remercions M. Benoît Forgeot pour cette référence précieuse) -- A. Tchemerzine, Bibliographie des éditions originales et rares d'auteurs français, t. V : (1) : p. 709 b) ; (2) p. 702 b) ; (3) : p. 704 c) ; (4) : p. 798 d) -- Roger Chartier, “Livres parlants et manuscrits clandestins. Les voyages de Dyrcona”, 2010, dialnet.unirioja.es.descarga.articulo -- enfin et surtout, les ouvrages de Madeleine Alcover comme : Cyrano de Bergerac, Les États et Empires de la Lune et du soleil. Édition critique. Textes établis et commentés par Madeleine Alcover, Paris, Champion, 2004, comme les tomes II et III des Œuvres complètes publiées chez Champion en 2001, et Dissidents, excentriques et marginaux de l’Âge classique. Autour de Cyrano de Bergerac. Bouquet offert à Madeleine Alcover… , Paris, 2006 -- M. Alcover, “Un gay trio : Chapelle, Cyrano, Dassoucy”, L'Autre au XVIIe siècle, colloque du Centre international de rencontres sur le XVIIe siècle (University of Miami, avril 1998), Tübingen, 1999, en partie consultable sur google books -- Maurice Blanchot, “L’Homme noir du XVIIe siècle”, Saisons, n° 2, printemps 1946, rééd. La Condition critique. Articles 1945-1998, Paris, 2010, pp. 55-64) -- M. Alcover, “Le Cyrano de Bergerac de Jacques Prévot”, https://journals.openedition.org/dossiersgrihl/5079#bodyftn45 --