London: Printed for John Williams, and Francis Eaglesfield…, 1654. First complete edition in English. Each part with its own title-page; additional engraved title featuring a bust of the author at the beginning of the book. Front joint cracked, but cords sound. Light dampstain on first thirty or so pages, ink blotches on p. 142, intermittent light foxing. There are several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ownership marks on the front endpapers and next blank, the earliest being that of “J. Lee Comedian. 1750,” whom the DNB calls an “actor and mangler of plays.” Also, there are quotations from Hamlet (“To be or not to be…”) and Pope’s Essay on Man (“Hope springs eternal…”) in an early hand (An old bookseller’s description attributes the hand to Lee, but we’re not sure.). An interesting association copy. Contemporary blind-panelled suede. Four parts bound together, octavo. 22], 142; , 119, [1, blank]; , 144; , 72 pp. Item #7619
Balzac (1594-1654), a littérateur from Angoulême who was patronized by Cardinal Richelieu, is known chiefly for the present work. “His letters, though empty and affected in manner, show a real mastery of style, introducing a new clearness and precision into French prose and encouraging the development of the language on national lines by emphasizing its most idiomatic elements. Balzac has thus the credit of executing in French prose a reform parallel to Malherbe’s in verse” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition). His other works include a eulogy to Louis XIII entitled Le Prince (1631); the Socrate chrétien (1652); and Aristippe ou de la Cour (1658). John Lee (d. 1781) was for years an actor in London under David Garrick. He was also a theatre manager in Edinburgh and in Bath. In this capacity he adapted the works of Shakespeare and various Restoration playwrights. His adaptations were generally considered poor. and Kemble refused to act in them. The D.N.B. quotes Cook’s Life of Macklin, which “speaks of Lee’s Iago as very respectable and showing judgment, and credits him with good qualities and much knowledge of his profession; but says that he ‘wanted to be placed in the chair of Garrick, and in attempting to reach this he often deranged his natural abilities…’”.