‘FORTSAS, comte de’. [CHALON, Renier Hubert Ghislain]. ~ Catalogue d’une très riche mais peu nombreuse collection de livres provenant de la bibliothèque de feu M. le Comte J.-N.-A. de Fortsas, dont la vente se fera à Binche, le 10 août 1840, à onze heures du matin, en l’étude et par le ministère de Me. Mourlon, Notaire, rue de l’Église, no. 9. Mons: E. Hoyois, Libraire, [ 1840].
8vo (204 × 120 mm), pp. , 12, wood engraved ornaments, plus a leaf of early manuscript describing affair, at front, and the original ‘Avis’ cancelling the sale, at rear. Nineteenth-century morocco-backed boards, bookplates of Edouard Ipers.
First edition of this very rare and notorious catalogue for the sale of the library of the comte de Fortsas in Mons, 1840. In that year, booksellers, librarians and collectors were surprised to receive copies of a sale catalogue for a remarkable library, containing just 52 books, each purporting to be a work or edition existing in a single copy only. The catalogue introduction explains that the comte collected only these otherwise unrecorded books and that if he subsequently found reference to any in bibliographies and catalogues he would deaccession them by selling, donation or even destruction. There are also helpful annotations to some lots from the comte’s own notes and some condition statements.
Converging on the small town of Binche on August 10th, hopeful bidders were surprised to find the notary’s office in which the sale was to be held did not actually exist and later, to learn that there was no library of unique books, and no comte de Fortsas. The hoax had been perpetrated by Renier Hubert Ghislain Chalon, an antiquarian who enjoyed playing elaborate pranks on intellectuals. This copy also contains the exceptionally rare ‘Avis’ sheet (officially stamped) bound at the end - the notice issued by Chalon stating that the sale was cancelled and that the books had been acquired en bloc by the public library of the town of Binche.
132 copies only of the catalogue were printed, and 73 copies of the Avis. It was reprinted very quickly, but the first edition is very rare and is recognised by the word ‘rue’ as the first word of the eighth line on the title (the earliest reprint has that word at the end of the line above): W. Klinefelter, The Fortsas Bibliohoax (1941)