In the pink

Posted on 30th June 2023 by simonbeattie

This is a copy of the first edition of Les amours de Mirtil (‘Constantinople’, but actually Paris, 1761), attributed variously to Fontenelle, Claude-Louis-Michel de Sacy (though he would have been only fifteen at the time), and Marc-Ferdinand Groubentall de Linière.  There was another edition the same year, also with a fictitious ‘Constantinople’ imprint, but unillustrated.  Cohen–de Ricci notes that, in some copies, the plates are printed in blue. It’s not often one finds them, but I do like coming across special copies like this of eighteenth-century books where the plates were printed with coloured ink.

An English translation, The Loves of Mirtil, Son of Adonis (with plates copying the French originals), appeared in 1770, which the Critical Review snubbed for ‘that silly, airy, trifling spirit of romance which distinguishes the Bergers and Bergeres on the banks of the Seine.  There the visionary dreams of fabulous antiquity may possibly please; but we have little relish for them …  Mirtil takes his crook and his pipe, sets out to debauch the shepherdesses, and after singing several songs, and enjoying several mistresses, receives extreme unction and dies, it may be hoped, a good Catholic.’

The Kansas University Library catalogue calls the book ‘a foundation text of French science fiction.’

For more information on this, and other recent acquisitions, please see my latest e-list.

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