Madame Bovary. Moeurs de province …

Paris, Michel Lévy frères, 1857.

2 vols, 12mo, pp. [4], 232, 36 [publisher’s catalogue dated April 1857]; [4], [233]-490, [2, blank]; with a half-title in each volume; a fine copy, untrimmed, in early half dark green morocco by Canape, preserving the original green printed wrappers.


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First edition in book form of Flaubert’s first and most famous novel and one of the most iconic works of the nineteenth century. This is the first issue, with the dedication leaf reading ‘Senart’ rather than ‘Senard’.

The serialization of Madame Bovary in La Revue de Paris in October-December 1856, resulted in Flaubert’s prosecution for obscenity in January 1857. And his subsequent acquittal in February assured the book’s lasting fame.

‘Flaubert was prosecuted … for his supposedly obscene and blasphemous handling of a tale of provincial adultery ending in suicide. He was acquitted thanks to a defence lawyer who demonstrated that Emma Bovary was a moral warning rather than an object of admiration. In retrospect it seems that the nihilistic quality of the writing, more perhaps than the plot as such, lay behind the prosecution’s focus on such phrases as “les souillures du mariage et la désillusion de l’adultère”. The novel is a devastatingly negative account of both marriage and adultery’ (New Oxford companion to literature in French).

This is the regular issue; a small number of copies appeared on papier vélin fort with continuous signatures, omitting the second title-page.

Talvart & Place,1a; Carteret, I, 263; En Français dans le texte, 277.

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