POUGENS, Marie-Charles-Joseph de. Trésor des origines et dictionnaire grammatical raisonné de la langue française … Specimen.
Paris, de l’Imprimerie royale. [Verso of half-title: A la librairie de MM. Treuttel et Würtz, Paris … Strasbourg … Londres …] 1819.  
4to (265 × 204 mm), pp. xix, [1], 447; with a lithographed portrait frontispiece by Delpech; some spotting in places, more so towards the beginning; a wide-margined copy in contemporary tree calf, grape and vine leaf gilt roll, smooth spine gilt in compartments, marbled endpapers, sprinkled edges; joints cracked but holding, corners worn, spine chipped at foot, headcap sometime reparied; inscribed by the author to his secretary (‘mon premier ami’) Théodore Jorin, with his scattered, often extensive, annotations throughout.
First edition: ‘only a specimen of a projected work’ (Oxford Companion to French Literature), the immense dictionary compiled by the blind French bookseller Charles de Pougens (1755–1833), this copy presented by the author to his amanuensis, with extensive contemporary annotations. Pougens, who was allegedly the illegitimate son of the Prince de Conti, suffered an early setback when he was blinded by smallpox during his studies in Rome. Undeterred, he found work first as translator, then as a bookseller. During his career he prepared the portable library for Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, ran a printing company with some fifty staff, and created a literary journal. Another blind polymath, Alexander Rodenbach (1786–1869), described him as ‘one of the most distinguished blind men of the century’. Pougens’ fame now rests largely on the extraordinary lexicographical project which consumed much of his life: a vast dictionary for which he gathered over 500,000 quotations from French literature. He and his English wife eventually retired to northern France to finish the project, but he died of apoplexy before its completion. The 100 folio volumes of notes for his dictionary, which were much used by Littré for his great Dictionnaire de la langue française (1863–73, ‘still the finest work of its kind for the study of the changing use and meaning of words’, Oxford Companion), are held by the Institut de France. Most of those volumes are in the hand of Théodore Jorin, whose neat marginal annotations in the present copy expand on the text, offer new interpretations, and make reference to contemporary lexicographical scholarship. The inscription here hints at the close working relationship between the men, and the volume offers a wonderful insight into their hugely ambitious project.
WorldCat locates 4 copies outside Europe: Penn only in the US, and three in Canada.
get in touch about this item 

click for enlarged photo