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    The Querelle des Bouffons, or
    "The War of the Comedians"

    J[ean] J[acques] Rousseau. Lettre sur la musique françoise. Deuxiéme [sic] édition. [N.p.]: 1753. [Together with:] [Elie-Catherine Fréron]. Lettres sur la musique françoise. En Réponse a celle de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Geneva: 1754. [And:] [N. de Caux de Cappeval]. Apologie du goût François, Relativement à L'Opera: Poeme, Avec un Discours Apologètique [sic], & des Adieux aux Bouffons. [Paris: 1754]. [And:] Filippo Venuti. Il trionfo letterario della Francia...Avignon: Appresso Alesssandro Giroud, 1750. Four works in one small octavo volume (7.5625 x 4.625 inches; 193 x 117 mm.). Contemporary French sprinkled calf with covers ruled in blind; spine decoratively panelled in gilt in compartments with five gilt-decorated raised bands (gilt now mostly lost) and brown leather label decoratively ruled and lettered in gilt; board edges decoratively tooled in gilt; edges sprinkled red. Dark green silk ribbon bookmark.
    There is a small area of surface and gilt loss at head of spine, which as been treated and is now a small dark area; joints rubbed in places; corners lightly bumped; board exposed on lower front corner; hinges cracked, but firm; top edge darkened. Small piece torn from lower margin of rear free endpaper. This book has been exposed to water at some point, and the evidence of dampness is most noticeable on the endpapers and in the upper margin in a few places. Light to moderate foxing and browning; a few small rust spots. A very good copy. Small bookseller's ticket of music antiquarian Hermann Baron on front pastedown: "H. Baron / Music and Books, / 136 Chatsworth Road, / London, N. W. 2., England." From the library of John Carroll Collins, with his booklabel on front pastedown.
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    The Querelle des Bouffons was a "dispute, between the supporters of serious French opera and Italian comic opera, that raged in Paris between 1752 and 1754. It was provoked by a performance on 1 August 1752 of Pergolesi's La serva padrona by Eustachio Bambini's visiting troupe (the 'Bouffons'), but its roots lay in the discontent that was widely felt by intellectuals, especially Rousseau and the Encyclopedists, with the state of French opera, and more generally with the degree of control exercised by the king, both over the Opéra and in constitutional matters. Supporters of French opera came to be identified as the 'coin du roi' and of Italian as the 'coin de la reine'. Religious issues (Jesuits v. Jansenists) were also involved. The musical dispute, though vigorously argued by [Melchior] Grimm, Rousseau (notably in his Lettre sur la musique française, 1753), Diderot, and others, who saw Italian comic opera, with its greater simplicity and more natural expression, as a breath of fresh air, was in a sense unreal, since comparison between the exalted tragédie lyrique and the Italians' skittish opere buffe and intermezzos was essentially meaningless; but it served to symbolize a wider dispute that affected many aspects of French political and intellectual life at the time" (Stanley Sadie in The Oxford Companion to Music Online). The Querelle resulted in the publication of over sixty letters and pamphlets.


    J[ean] J[acques] Rousseau (1712-1778). Lettre sur la musique françoise. Sunt verba & voces, praetereaque, nihil. Deuxiéme [sic] édition. [N.p.]: 1753.


    Second edition (first edition also published in 1753). Small octavo. [8], 92 pages ([pi]4 A-E8 F6). Decorative woodcut title vignette; decorative woodcut head-piece; historiated woodcut initial; type ornament head-piece. Small rust hole in outer blank margin of [pi]4; paper flaw to lower corner of B3 (21/22).


    "The Querelle des Bouffons had erupted in August 1752, and Rousseau's Lettre sur la musique française appeared in November 1753. While he saw Italian music, based on melody and the voice, as being closer to the moral, meaningful nature of music, he violently criticized French music as the product of a deliberate perversion that he had already denounced in his Discours sur les sciences et les arts of 1750. The differentiated sound worlds of the French language and French music reveal a process of disintegration, as a result of which, through their articulation, coordination and intellectualization, language and music become divorced and produce cacophony. The fundamental argument in the Lettre is both emphasized and disguised by its polemical nature, which is announced at the start of the work and summed up by its famous last sentence: 'I conclude that the French have no music and cannot have any; or that if ever they do have any, so much the worse for them'" (Catherine Kintzler in Grove Music Online). Eitner VIII, page 337. Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 237.


    [Together with:] [Elie-Catherine Fréron (1718-1776)]. Lettres sur la musique françoise. En Réponse a celle de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Geneva: 1754.


    Small octavo. 64 pages, including half-title and title (A-D8). Decorative woodcut title vignette; historiated woodcut head-piece; decorative woodcut initial. Gathering C quite browned, with faint dapstain in the upper margin. Offsetting from the engraved title of the following work (Caux de Cappeval) on page 64. Ink smudge or thumbsoiling in the lower blank margin of page 8 and in the text on page 11. Paper flaw and tear along edge of text on B3 (pages 21/22), repaired on the verso, affecting a few letters in the headline on both recto and verso; small rust hole in C5 (pages 41/42), affecting one letter in the headline on recto.


    A reprint of two letters previously published in Fréron's Lettres sur quelques écrits de ce temps (London and Paris, 1752-1754). "In the famous querelle des bouffons, the dispute over Pergolesi's La serva padrona in 1752, the powerful littérateur Elie Fréron ridiculed the work's supporters as an intellectual minority: 'One may observe that, whenever the bouffons have performed, there have been only one or two geometricians, lawyers and publicists [in the audience], and almost no women'" (William Weber, "Learned and General Musical Taste in Eighteenth-Century France," in Past and Present, Number 89 (November 1980), page 69). Eitner IV, page 71. Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 96.


    [And:] [N. de Caux de Cappeval (ca. 1700-1774)]. Apologie du goût François, Relativement à L'Opera: Poeme, Avec un Discours Apologètique [sic], & des Adieux aux Bouffons. [Paris: 1754].


    Small octavo. 80 pages (A-E8) plus engraved allegorical vignette title. Type ornament head- and tail-piece; decorative woodcut tail-piece. Above the image on the engraved title is a banner reading: "fraterna Correctio." At foot of engraved title: "l'Explication est à la fin du 3. Chant." Gathering E quite foxed. Tiny hole at outer edge of B6 (27/28) and lower corner of D1 (49/50).


    French poet N. de Caux de Cappeval was a "supporter of French opera during the Querelle des Bouffons, he contributed a lengthy poem in five cantos, the Apologie du goût français, in the early months of 1754 as a rejoinder to Rousseau's Lettre sur la musique françoise. The frontispiece [i.e. engraved title] depicts Pegasus unseating Rousseau while [Melchior] Grimm (le petit prophète) receives a vigorous thrashing from two satyrs. An introductory Discours apologétique, in prose, provides a historical account of the quarrel; the poem itself celebrates French opera, criticizes the 'false brilliance' of Italian music and accuses the philosophes of deliberately campaigning to 'massacre' French traditions. A concluding poem, the Adieux aux bouffons, is a reworking of an earlier pamphlet, L'anti-scurra, ou Préservatif contre les bouffons italiens, published on 6 February 1753" (Elisabeth Cook in Grove Music Online). Eitner II, page 375. Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 55.


    [And:] Filippo Venuti (1706-1768). Il trionfo letterario della Francia. Dedicato a Sua Eccellenza il Signor Marchese di Puysieulx, Ministro e Segretario di Stato di Sua Maestà Christianissima. Avignon: Appresso Alesssandro Giroud, 1750.


    Small octavo in fours. [2, half-title (verso blank)], [2, title], [iii]-viii, [3]-64 pages ([pi]4 A-H4). An "Errata" containing nineteen errors is affixed to the lower blank portion of page 64. Decorative woodcut title vignette; decorative woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials; type ornament head-pieces and initials.


    Linguist and grammarian Filippo (Philippe) Venuti, a native of Cortona who had lived in Bordeaux and been a friend of Montesquieu, was one of the ecclesiastics enlisted to assist

    in edition the Lucca edition of the Encyclopédie. Il trionfo letterario della Francia is a poem in Italian in honor of French poets and scholars, with a dedication to the Marquis de Puysieulx in French, signed: "L'abbé de Venuti.".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
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