Les dames dans leur naturel, ou la galanterie sans façon. Sous le regne du Grand Alcandre.

‘A Cologne’ [but Netherlands], ‘chez Pierre Marteau’ [Elzevier?], 1686.

12mo, pp. [iv], 228; woodcut printer’s device on title, and headpiece; some spotting and foxing in places, but largely clean and fresh; in later red morocco, spine in compartments lettered in gilt; all edges gilt; with the book-label of the Chateau de Mouchy (Oise) on front paste-down.


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First edition, uncommon, of this story, ‘found in a cabinet, long after it had been written’ by the French novelist and pamphleteer Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras (1644–1712), nowadays best known for his semi-fictionalised Mémoires de Mr. d’Artagnan, which heavily influenced Dumas’ later work. Despite its claims of antiquity, the reign of the ‘Grand Alcandre’ in which Les dames dans leur naturel is set is clearly that of Louis XIV, and the novel satirises the court and the women at it in a way that echoes Bussy-Rabutin’s Histoire amoureuse des Gaules of two decades previous.

The imprint, understandably, is a false one, often used (and possibly created) by Elzevier for satirical, political, and sexually explicit works, but used from the 1660s onwards by several Amsterdam printers for French books, and more broadly from the 1680s. The name lives on in the Wuppertal publisher Peter Hammer Verlag, (‘marteau’ meaning hammer) founded in 1966 with the aim of publishing left-wing literature.

De Brouillant, Histoire de Pierre de Marteau: Imprimeur à Cologne, p. 136; outside continental Europe, OCLC records copies at Toronto, Trinity College Dublin, the British Library, and the State Library of New South Wales.

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