UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT BY FAMOUS FEMALE TRANSLATOR

‘Ouvrages historiques de Bevill Higgons Ecuyer traduit de l’Anglois par mad. D’arconville ... Vu abregé de l’histoire d’Angleterre’.

France, 1790s.

Manuscript on paper, in French, small 4to (18.7 x 13 cm), 2 parts, pp. [18], 301 (recte 300), [2], 152, [2 blank]; very neatly written in brown ink in a single hand within borders ruled in green ink, up to 25 lines per page; with numerous corrections in a different hand in red ink to the first 143 pages; very good, crisp and clean in eighteenth-century red morocco, gilt border to covers, flat spine richly gilt with lettering-piece, gilt turn-ins and edges, blue endpapers; extremities very slightly rubbed; engraved bookplate of Mme d’Arconville to front pastedown; notes in different hands to title, ‘Donné à Mr Gossellin par Mde d’Arconville’, ‘et à Monsieur Gence par Mr Gossellin’ (see below).

£1750

Approximately:
US $2288€1936

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A handsome manuscript of Marie-Geneviève-Charlotte Darlus Thiroux d’Arconville’s unpublished French translation of A short view of the English History by the historian and poet Bevil Higgons (1670-1735), formerly in the possession of the translator herself.

As well as being a noted chemist, famous for her 1766 study of putrefaction, Thiroux d’Arconville (1720-1805) was a prolific and talented translator, beginning in 1756 with a French rendering of George Savile’s Advice to a daughter. This manuscript contains her last work of translation, undertaken late in life after her imprisonment following the French Revolution, and dedicated to her son Thiroux de Mondésir. We have traced only one other extant copy, at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS français 14642-3).

The manuscript begins with a most interesting preface by the translator, in which she praises Higgons as ‘sage, éclairé, plus impartial sur l’article de la religion Catholique que ne le sont ordinairement les Anglicans’, and his work as ‘aussi utile qu’interessante’. She does, nevertheless, find small fault in his over attachment to the Stuarts and in his occasional brevity on matters of historical importance. She also censures Charles I for his ‘condamnation de Milord Staford’, and is especially critical of James II : ‘foible et despotique en même tems, il a aliené sa nation et a perdu son royaume par son imbecile confiance’.

Our manuscript passed from the translator to her friend the geographer and librarian Pascal-François-Joseph Gossellin (1751-1830), and from him to the writer and archivist Jean-Baptiste-Modeste Gence (1755-1840). One of these two men was perhaps responsible for the considerable revisions to the translation visible in the first part.

See Elisabeth Bardez, ‘Au fil de ses ouvrages anonymes, Madame Thiroux d’Arconville, femme de lettres et chimiste éclairée’, Revue d’histoire de la pharmacie, 96e année, N. 363, 2009, pp. 255-266.

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FROM THE LOST LOGIE LIBRARY OF WALTER BOWMAN PERUCCI, Francesco.

Pompe funebri di tutte le nationi del mondo, raccolte dale storie sagre et profane.

First edition of Perucci’s extensively illustrated account of funeral practices, inscribed by a Scottish antiquary and documented book collector. A fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and later the Royal Society, Walter Bowman (1699 – 1782) travelled extensively over the course of five decades in Italy, where this book was most likely acquired, studying at the University of Padua for two years and accompanying Samuel Rolle, Simon Harcourt, and Francis Seymour-Conway as tutor on grand tours; his remarkably detailed notes on his travels and keen collecting survive, principally in the National Library of Scotland and the Biblioteca nazionale in Florence.

Bowman’s library is remarkably well recorded through two documents, an account book from 1754 to 1766 (Bod. MS Eng. misc. d. 808) detailing purchases from and auction bids with booksellers as well as bindings commissioned from Roger Payne, and his will of 1782 (National Archives PROB 11/1088/285) in which he left ‘singularly minute and whimsical directions regarding the arrangement and preservation of his fine library’ (DNB). The will writes that ‘in a long course of years both at home and abroad I have at a considerable expense and trouble collected an useful though small Library of Books in good condition with my Name on each in my own handwriting, on different Arts and Sciences of various kinds in the learned Languages, in French, Italian, and English’. Dying childless, Bowman left the library to his brother James, with ‘this express condition, that they be not sold, lent, or dispersed, in whole or any part whatsoever, but carefully and honestly preserved … for the sole use and benefit of my heirs .. and to go along with my Estate of Logie in the said County of Fife in Scotland’.

In addition to detailed provision for the transport (from Surrey to Scotland), ordering, and cataloguing of the library, Bowman’s lengthy instructions specify that the books were to be kept ‘dry, clean, and neat, sound and safe, free from dust, mustiness, damps, without … rats and mice and all other annoyances and corruptions, without being blotted, stained, torn, damaged’ and that ‘the Room wherein they stand shall be appropriated solely for reading, writing, and study and not for any other business, work, occupation, or fellowship whatsoever except where the cases are locked up … and that the said Books may suffer no damage and be maintained in their standing order the said Room shall be furnished with a clean table, water bason [sic], and towel for filthy hands and the [heir] himself shall give out every Book as it is wanted to be read and consulted and lock the same up again afterwards so perused in the same room without suffering any of them to be moved about or out of the house’.

Bowman’s library appears to have survived at least until the mid-nineteenth century, being described in Leighton’s History of Fife: ‘The library contains among others, many valuable editions of the ancient classics, particularly a fine edition of Pliny’s Natural History, and a splendidly illuminated edition of Ptolemy. It also contains a valuable collection of engravings; a great number of maps and charts, and a well preserved copy of Bleau’s Atlas. [The heir] … is bound to keep a suitable room for the library in his house, and to allow free access to it to the neighbouring gentlemen there to read and study … women and children are expressly prohibited from having access to the library.’ (Leighton, History of the County of Fife (1840) II, p. 50). No later record of the library’s survival could be traced, though Feather suggests the books may have been dispersed in Edinburgh after the Second World War.

In 1982 Feather wrote ‘I do not know the present location of any of Bowman’s books’. We have been able to trace six other books from Bowman’s library at auction: of these, the majority have been later rebound; only one other (Christie’s, 1998) survives unrestored and is in similarly questionable condition, suggesting Bowman’s efforts for the preservation of his once magnificent books may have been in vain.

USTC 4011567; cf. Feather, ‘Walter Bowman’ in The Book Collector vol. 31 no. 1 (Spring 1982, pp. 47-63.

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MID-EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY WORLD VIEW [MANUSCRIPT.]

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