8vo, (4) ff, 806 pp, (1) ff. Bound in luxurious 19th century red morocco by Chambolle-Duru. Very good.
Rare second edition, carefully corrected by Montaigne himself, of his chef d’oeuvre and a masterpiece of world literature. Montaigne continuously corrected his Essais throughout his lifetime, and modern commentators have often been able to trace the development of his thought through these changes, in addition to the reflections they provide of Montaigne’s life experiences. The first of these corrected editions is the present work, published shortly after Montaigne’s return from a voyage to Italy. The work is of particular American interest for one of the earliest and most astute accounts of Brazilian Indians published in the 16th century (“Des Cannibales,” pp. 174-191), and certainly the most widely read account of Brazilian Indians known to Renaissance readers.
More meticulously (and beautifully) printed than the first edition, the present work incorporates some 34 additions and 16 new citations relative to the 1580 text. Many of the new citations reference Italian sources – an indication of the profound effect Montaigne’s travels in Italy (1580-1) had on the author. Other corrections – in text, style, orthography, punctuation, and the addition or suppression of words – have also been recorded by Marcel Françon. The edition of 1582 “permits first of all the correction of a somewhat corrupted text… but also represents a commercial endeavour by Millanges, who had a great interest in associating himself with a new political power [ie Montaigne, who had been elected Mayor of Bordeaux in 1581].” (Desan)
In his thought-provoking discussion of civilized behaviour famously titled ‘Des Cannibales’, Montaigne draws on printed sources—Léry, Thevet and Osorio—as well as a personal encounter with ethnic Brazilians. Montaigne had been in Rouen in 1562 when a group of Indians were presented to Charles IX. In “Des Cannibales”, he reports with remarkable accuracy on Brazilian morals, music, housing and other ethnographic details. Following a detailed description of cannibalism, the essayist draws a deft parallel with the torture methods employed by the Inquisition.
Like the first edition, the present work contains the first two books of the Essais. A third would appear only in 1588.
OCLC shows Chicago, Virginia, the NYPL, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard.
* Desan 12; Sayce, 2; Tchemerzine-Scheler, IV, 871; M. Françon, Les Essais de 1582 (Harvard, 1969).