SULLY, Maximilien de Bethune, duc de (1559-1641). Memoires des sages et royalles oeconomies d'estate domestiques, politiques et militaires de Henry le Grand… [Angers: Chateau de Sully, 1638].

$ 950.00

2 volumes in one. Folio, (14 ⅜ x 9 ½ inches). Hand-colored publisher's device on title-pages, typographic headpieces (some mostly marginal staining, browning, lacking errata vol. II, N3 vol. I with repaired tear touching a few letters, last leaf torn with a few losses in blank spaces and laiddown). Contemporary tan calf, the spine in six compartments with five raised bands, gilt lettered in two (rebacked, generally a bit worn).

Provenance: Early shelfmark on fore-edge. With inkstamps of Trinity College, Dublin (duplicate) and manuscript note dated 1882. From the important library of Jean R. Perrette, his sale, Ex Libris Jean R. Perrette: Important Travel, Exploration & Cartography, April 5, 2016, Christie’s sale 12259, Lot 484.

First edition. SCARCE. Sully was Prime Minister to King Henry IV of France and a staunch Huguenot. This original edition of Sully’s Memoires was secretly printed at the Chateau de Sully and published a false address in Amsterdam. His real printer, who was from Angers, is still unknown. In 1596 Sully was added to Henry’s finance commission, and set about putting France’s economic affairs in order. Acting as sole Superintendent of Finances by the end of 1601, he authorized the free exportation of grain and wine, reduced legal interest, established a special court to try cases of embezzlement, forbade provincial governors to raise money on their own authority, and otherwise removed many abuses of tax-collecting. Sully was appointed head of a government road-building service in 1599, and thereafter road-building became a major preoccupation of the French government. The financial and agrarian reforms led by Sully helped to repair the damage to France’s economy caused by the Wars of Religion (1562-1598). He encouraged agriculture, urged the free circulation of produce, promoted stock-raising, forbade the destruction of the forests, drained swamps, built roads and bridges, planned a vast system of canals and actually began the Canal de Briare. He strengthened the French military, and under his direction, the construction of a great line of defense along the frontiers began. After the death of Henry IV in 1610 Sully was forced to resign and lived away from court, although occasionally he provided some service or advice to Louis XIII. He retired to his estate and dictated his memoirs [as here], in which he glorifies Henry IV and his work, in particular evoking his “Grand Design” of a confederation of European states.

Brunet states that the ‘Paralleles de Cesar et de Henry le Grand’ are printed in Roman characters in the first edition and are to be found on pp. 469-476; they are in Roman type in the present copy, though they are on pp. 470-479. Lacking errata present in some copies, but not called for in Brunet. Sully’s memoirs are very valuable for the history of the time and are, in part, Sully’s autobiography. These memoirs are remarkable for their often-reprinted account of the “Great Design,” which Sully attributes to Henry IV and which was a European confederation, or “Christian republic,” to be established after the defeat of Austria and Spain. Brunet V: 589-590.