JUSSIEU, L[aurent]. P. de. ~ Simon de Nantua, or le marchand Forain, ouvrage qui a obtenu le prix fondé par un anonyme, et proposé par la Société pour l’instruction élémentaire; en faveur du meilleur livre destiné à servir de lecture au people des villes et des campagnes. Paris: [Imprimerie de Fain] for ‘L. Colas, imprimeur-libraire de la Société pour l'instruction élémentaire’, 1818.
12mo (167 × 98 mm.), pp. [viii], 239, , with superb engraved frontispiece depicting the jovial Simon de Nantua on foot with his horse and conversing with a fellow traveller. Very occasional spotting. Contemporary full tree calf, gilt patterned spine with green label. Ownership inscription to title (not affecting text). An excellent copy.
First edition. This immensely popular juvenile novel emphasises thrift and hard work through the character of Simon, a travelling salesman. It was published by La Société pour l’instruction élémentaire following a competition, with a prize of 1000 francs donated by an anonymous benefactor, for a work of no more than 250 pages in which were ‘tracés avec simplicité, précision et sagesse, le principes de religion chrétienne, de morale, de prudence sociale’, for the improvement of everyday town and country people. There were numerous subsequent editions in France, as well as translations into Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Greek and even Breton.
A nephew of the Jussieu brothers of botanical fame, Laurent Jussieu became director of police to the French minister for the interior in 1837. Quérard IV, 276. Though remarkably popular, and frequently reprinted, the first edition is rare with the CCFr listing just a handful of copies and Worldcat giving University of Virginia as the only US location of the first edition, with additional copies in Montreal and Toronto.