Caen: B. Mancel, 1845. 1st Edition. Small square octavo, contemporary full red crushed morocco, raised bands, spine and board edges gilt, gilt dentelles, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers, attached silk bookmark, title-page printed in gold.
Rare first edition of French novelist and critic Barbey's influential essay on the 19th-century cult of the dandy, with autograph corrections in the author's hand. Best known for his provocative story collection Les Diaboliques, Barbey was a member of the minor Norman aristocracy, a Catholic royalist with a florid personality and an elegant literary style, who actively promoted the work of Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Stendahl. He was also a leading proponent of dandysme, the male cultivation of dress, sensibility, and the pursuit of leisure as a means of distinguishing oneself from the crowd that had its origins in reaction to the democratizing forces of the French Revolution. George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, famously famous for being famous, was the outstanding model of the dandy, with his good looks, offhand wit, and understated yet impeccable taste in clothes. His high lifestyle led to bankruptcy, and he fled his creditors to the northern French city of Caen, where he died impoverished in an asylum in 1840. Barbey had attended law school in Caen, and spoke to many of the people who knew Brummell there in preparing his essay. It has been estimated that between 250-320 copies of this first edition were printed, primarily for circulation among Brummell's friends in Caen, prior to wider publication in Paris in 1861. Several presentation copies signed by Barbey have been recorded as having two of the errors listed on the rear errata leaf hand-corrected by him in the text. This copy, while not bearing a presentation inscription, has the two errors hand-corrected, on pp. 67 and 113. Text in French. Melmoux-Montaubin, Bibliographie de Barbey d'Aurevilly, 246. Bookplates. Bound by French craft binder Hardy-Mennil, with their gilt stamp to upper dentelle. Minor rubbing to top corner of upper board. An exquisitely bound copy of a major work in the history and literature of men's fashion. Item #504