‘The Tocqueville of Russia’: beautiful example of the uncommon first edition, which was followed by 18 successive editions and translations before 1855 and banned in Russia until a complete translation was published in the late XX century.
Astolphe Custine (1790 – 1857) travelled to Russia in the summer of 1839, visiting Moscow and Yaroslavl’ before settling for a period of time in St. Petersburg. He found himself under constant observation, and therefore never sent any of the letters to friends assembled in the present volume, instead publishing them back in France on his return. The work has received praise not only as a masterful literary creation but also as a statement of political prophesy, predicting the imminent rebellion of the Russian people. A royalist rather than a democrat, Custine nevertheless speaks out against the absolutism of the Tsar in favour of a constitutional monarchy.
As J. F. Tarn writes in En français dans le texte, ‘Ce livre beneficia sans conteste d’une curiosité fort vive pour les pays des tsars depuis les Encyclopédistes et l’Empire, et fit l’effet d’une bombe.’ [This book undoubtedly benefited from the great curiosity that has surrounded the land of the Tsars since the era of the Encyclopaedists and the Empire, and its impact was like that of a bomb.]
With contemporary provenance: Stephens Lyne-Stephens (1801-60) was an English Conservative MP who, after inheriting a family fortune from glass manufacture in Portugal, bought and refurbished Lynford Hall and was reputed to be the richest commoner in England.
First edition. 4 vols; 8vo. Half-title, title, pp. xxxi, 354; half-title, title, pp. 416; half-title, title, pp. 470; half-title, title, pp. 544, with folding letterpress table; very light occasional spotting. Contemporary English polished half-calf over marbled boards, flat spines gilt, burgundy morocco labels lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers and edges, preserved in a modern leather-entry slipcase.
Provenance: Stephens Lyne-Stephens (armorial bookplate to upper pastedowns with motto ‘recte et suaviter’).
En Francais dans le texte 262; Vicaire II-1090.
Stock ID: 84699