Title: Oeuvres de Jean Racine, avec les Variantes ...
Publisher: M.Petitot, Paris.
Publication Date: 1813
Book Condition: Very Good
Complete set in five volumes. clxxii, 297; 488; 486; 392; 310; (lacks half-titles). Antique spot on French curl (or Snail ) marbled endpapers. All edges marbled. Inner gilt dentelles. Contemporary engraved armorial bookplates of Frances Mary Richardson Currer on each front paste-down endpaper. Later ownership signatures of Southam on blank preliminary leaves. Page edges toned. Scattered foxing. Small, old,marginal stain on lower edge and gutter of initial leaves in volume 3- not affecting the text and similar but even smaller at top of volume 1. 13 x 21 cm. Contemporary full royal blue calf. Spines with 5 triple gilt fillet raised bands, identical burgundy morocco labels, extra gilt tooled tulips, stamens, with pointille curve leaves & volute curve corners, dated "Paris 1813" (very slightly rubbed). Boards with triple gilt fillet borders and small corner stars (hinges very lightly discoloured in places & cracked but not split; slightly abraded in places; volume one with small stain near top). Tooled edges (very slightly bumped at corners). Provenance:- Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785-1861) , a niece of Clive of India, is often regarded as the first major female book collector. In Reminiscences of a Literary Life (1836), Thomas Frognall Dibdin wrote that she was at the head of all female Collectors in Europe. Seymour De Ricci called her England's earliest female bibliophile in English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts (1930). While earlier women, mostly noble ladies, had collected finely-bound books as a pastime, it was often claimed that they did not do so from a true love of books. Miss Richardson Currer clearly loved books for their own sake. She inherited both the Richardson and Currer estates from her father, including a substantial library, to which she added greatly herself. It is also worth noting that she lived near the Brontë family and may have been the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë s pen name of Currer Bell. In 1820, the London bookseller Robert Triphook compiled a catalogue of her library, Catalogue of the Library at Eshton Hall. The revised edition, published in 1833, includes this book "Racine (Oeuvres de Jean), avec les variantes et les imitations des auteurs Grecs et Latins, publiées par M . Petitot. 5 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1815" & several engravings of the library. While Frances Currer took a great pride in her library, she declined the offer to have her portrait included in Dibdin's Reminiscences. She wrote, I don't doubt the Book will be an amusing one and to have the Portraits of Gentlemen in it is very proper, but I don't think it would be pleasant for me to be in the Gallery the only Lady so very conspicuous! (Hunt, Private Libraries in the Age of Bibliomania, The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, 2014). Despite her friendship with Dibdin and his obvious respect for her as a book collector, he did not invite her to join the Roxburgh Club, the bibliophilic society he founded. The first woman to join that group would be the great collector Mary Hyde Eccles in 1985. Miss Richardson Currer was a close friend of Richard Heber, another ardent bibliomaniac whose own collection numbered over 100,000 volumes. In Mighty Women Book Hunters, (1929) A.S.W. Rosenbach recounted this possibly-apocryphal anecdote: Miss Richardson Currer owned a valuable library containing over fifteen thousand volumes, including a beautiful copy printed on vellum of the Book of St. Albans, 1496, written by the first woman sports writer, Dame Juliana Berners. Richard Heber, probably the most enthusiastic book-collector who ever lived, tried to wheedle it out of her by hook or crook. Not succeeding by nefarious ways, he took the honorable method of proposing marriage. The lady, not caring to share the volume with a husband, indignantly refused. Good for her! Frances Currer had hoped that her library would remain in Eshton Hall after her death, but her family sold most of it at Sotheby's in 1862. Seller Inventory # 5070