Four hundred years of French history, magnificently bound in one volume
A one-of-a-kind set of 32 letters and documents, ranging in date from 1483 to 1873, signed by every French king and emperor from the time of King Louis XI to Napoleon III; the queens and empresses are also all present, beginning with Marie de Medici. Each piece has been professionally inlaid into a stunning leather-bound presentation book, each preceded by an inlaid engraved portrait of the ruler. Highlights of the collection include Catherine de’ Medici, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the exceptionally rare Francis II. While most of the included pieces are documents and letters, there are several rare ALSs, most notably of Empress Josephine and Charles X. The book is arranged chronologically, and signers are (as they appear): Louis XI, DS on vellum dated 1483; Charles VIII, DS on vellum dated 1488; Louis XII, DS on vellum dated 1503; Francis I, LS to a European monarch dated 1528; Henry II, LS to the Duke d’Angouleme dated 1558; Catherine de' Medici, LS to her ambassador to Spain dated 1566; Francis II, DS on vellum dated 1560; Charles IX, DS on vellum dated 1562, signed by Charles at the age of twelve; Henry III, DS on vellum dated 1585; Henry IV, LS dated just 40 days before his assassination in 1610; Marie de’ Medici, DS on vellum dated 1621; Louis XIII, an important DS enumerating an inventory of royal tapestries, dated 1621; Anne of Austria, LS with an autograph subscription dated 1644; Louis XIV, DS with the addition of “Bon,” dated 1713; Maria Theresa of Spain, DS on vellum; Philippe II Duke of Orleans, LS with an eight-line autograph subscription; Françoise Marie de Bourbon, DS on vellum dated 1724; Louis XV, LS to a European monarch, dated 1727; Marie Leszczynska, LS to a cardinal dated 1728; Louis XVI, DS dated 1791; Marie Antoinette, DS with the addition of “payez,” dated 1785; Napoleon Bonaparte, letter from the Duke of Feltre endorsed by Napoleon, dated 1811; Josephine de Beauharnais, ALS signed “Lapagerie Bonaparte” circa 1800; Marie Louise of Austria, DS as Empress of France, dated 1812; Louis XVIII, DS dated 1818; Marie Josephine of Savoy, DS on vellum dated 1781; Charles X, undated ALS written as king, 1824-1830; Maria Theresa of Savoy, DS on vellum dated 1781; Louis-Philippe I, ALS in English dated 1804; Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, ALS dated 1822; Napoleon III, LS dated 1861; and Eugenie de Montijo, ALS dated 1873. The book measures a substantial 14 x 19 and is housed in a matching custom-made clamshell case. In overall very good to fine condition.
Meticulously gathered by a French collector, these documents were assembled into this magnificent volume in the 1910s by an American millionaire, who spared no expense in matching the quality of the collection with the quality of the binding. Fully bound in luxurious navy blue Morocco leather, the spines of both the book and the case bear the title ‘Autographs of the Rulers of France from Louis XI to Napoleon III.’ With elegant and elaborate gilt decoration adorning the covers and bordering the regal red silk moiré endpapers, and vibrant gilt textblock edges, the book itself is a gorgeous example of fine, early 20th century binding. Individually, several of the items contained within—especially the early kings, Marie Antoinette, and the highly sought-after Francis II, who reigned for less than two years and died at age 16—are difficult to find and highly desirable; assembled together in one, absolutely beautiful book, they form a truly remarkable self-contained collection that would be exceedingly difficult to build one piece at a time. RR Auction COA.