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Voyages et avantures de Jaques Masse.

Bourdeaux [i.e. The Hague]: Jaques L'Aveugle, 1710 [i.e. around 1714] Stock Code: 123204
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The true first edition

First edition of this early utopian novel, "the best-known of all the radical philosophical novels of the Early Enlightenment" and which "surpassed practically every other work of philosophical fiction of the age for notoriety" (Israel, pp. liii and lvi). The novel details a Frenchman shipwrecked off South Africa - the co-ordinates are given as 60E/44S, roughly around the Kerguelen Islands - where he finds a terrestrial paradise. Learning the language of the natives, the protagonist seeks to explain Christianity to them, who greet its central tenets as absurd, and its God as unjust. The hero continues his travels, and there hears a parable on Christianity that shocked the author's contemporaries - an absolute monarch, who owns bees, damns them for sucking nectar which had been prohibited merely to test his authority, send his son in bee form to redeem them, whereupon the different worshippers of the bee messiah kill each other, whilst bee priests live indolent lives on pious bees' labour. Rapidly banned in Holland and France, it nonetheless went through further Dutch editions, a French edition, three English editions, and two German editions by 1760. Tyssot publicly denied writing the work at the time due to the controversy, and some scholars still question his authorship, but he himself claimed to have written it in a letter to his son in 1720, and modern scholarly opinion generally supports the attribution (ibid p. liv). The book was actually published around 1714, but was pre-dated 1710, possibly to coincide with the Millenarianism of that year, or to feign priority for the idea of a "fable of the bees", as Mandeville had published his own parable in 1714.

The book poses bibliographic difficulties, with four editions purporting to be published in 1710, three in the same place by the same publisher. Rosenberg has established that the present edition, best distinguished by a woodcut on the title page of a celestial globe with a knob deviating to the left, is the true first edition.

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Duodecimo (158 x 92 mm). Contemporary speckled calf, red morocco label.


Ownership label, neat ink note of author, and early catalogue description to front pastedown. Small chip at base of spine, front joint cracked but firm, some light browning, front free endpaper and frontispiece expertly reinserted. A very good copy.


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