Wednesday, October 12, 2016


2 1806 history books, bound
in 17th-c. vellum French legal
I've been working this week to put together a little paper for the Texts and Contexts conference in Columbus, Ohio, late next week, where I'll be talking about a handful of early nineteenth-century French schoolbooks I've picked up here and there over the last year or two, bound in various scraps of vellum manuscripts. I've collected manuscript binding fragments and books that use them for some time, and I am always looking out for more.

But as I was working on my paper, looking at this matched pair of 1806 juvenile histories, I noted that at the end of the Histoire Ancienne, there was a little note to the buyer: "Nota. On prévient que tout exemplaire, soit de l'Histoire Ancienne, soit de l'Histoire Romaine, qui ne porteroit pas la signature, à la main, de l'Auteur, est contrefait." 

Leçons Élémentaires sur L'Histoire 
Ancienne (Reims: Le Batard, 1806), 
p. 136

I suppose Google Translate makes such passages easy to manage these days; I'll offer my own version here: "Note: Be warned that every copy, be it of the Histoire Ancienne, be it of the Histoire Romaine, which does not bear the signature, in handwriting, of the Author, is counterfeit."

This warning, indeed, is followed in my copy by the manuscript signature, "Engrand," whose name is otherwise quite difficult to find in the book, as it does not appear on the title page. It can, however, be found buried in the publisher's catalogue printed on pages [ii-iv]. Fascinatingly, the copy of the Histoire Romaine, which was bound to match, has no similar statement of authenticity, and no signature by M. Engrand. Both books indicate that they are third editions, printed by the same printer, "Chez LE BATARD," in 1806, and it is hard to imagine that one of these books is counterfeit while the other is not. Both books, I should note, include publisher's catalogues, which seems unlikely if one were a counterfeit.

And this is just why I find working with old books so fascinating: here we have a claim that may or may not be true. The evidence is right in my hands, and even so, I am not really certain what to make of it. 

For the bibliographically curious, the two books are:

[Henri Engrand]. Leçons Élémentaires sur L'Histoire Ancienne À L'Usage de la Jeunesse. Troisième Édition. Reims: Le Batard, 1806. viii, 136.

[Henri Engrand]. Leçons Élémentaires sur L'Histoire Romaine À L'Usage de la Jeunesse. Troisième Édition, revue et soigneusement corrigée. Reims: Le Batard, 1806. 240.

WorldCat does not appear to record a single institutional library holding either of these third editions, though earlier and later editions of both books are represented there. 

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