In anticipation of Firsts, we thought we would highlight one of our favourite ‘firsts’: a first edition, first issue of Chroniques Françoises de Jacques Gondar (Paris, Firmin Didot for Louis Janet, 1830), in a stunning blind-stamped velvet binding.
The book, which presents itself as a reproduction of a medieval manuscript, was published by Francisque Michel (1809–1887), who ‘found’ Gondar’s manuscript in a group of old parchment and tatty books and proceeded to reproduce it in facsimile for his fellow bibliophiles.
This was, however, an elaborate fiction: the book is a literary forgery, entirely of Michel’s creation. The hoax was concocted during the 21-year-old’s time in Paris in 1830, which he spent with a group of like-minded Romantics and bibliophiles, before he became the medieval scholar he is remembered as today. The lack of date on the title, and the various bindings in which it survives, has confused bibliographers and booksellers since, but Barrière* identifies two printings, in 1830 and 1836. The present copy is from the first issue, and has been coloured and illuminated by hand.
For more info on Michel’s literary hoax, and to see what else we will be bringing to Firsts, stay tuned for our fair list, which we shall be releasing soon!
*For more on the bibliographical quirks of this book, see Didier Barrière, ‘Un petit Francisque Michel: médiéviste, bibliomane romantique, mauvais élève de Charles Nodier’, Fragmentos 31 (2006), pp. 113–140.