MARÉCHAL, Sylvain. ~ [Recueil de poëtes moralistes françois]. Choix des quatrains moraux de Pybrac, Favre, Mathieu, Godeau, Fénélon, Sylvain Maréchal, François de Neufchateau, et de quelques autres. A Gnomopolis [Paris] : Et se trouve à Paris chez Cailleau, Imprimeur-Libraire, rue Galande, 1784.
2 volumes in 1, 12mo (135 × 65 mm), pp. xv, , 232; , 204, text within double-ruled borders. Second title with one corner torn away (careless opening?) just touching border. Partially uncut, preserved in later quarter morocco wtih green vellum tips. An excellent copy.
First edition of this typographical innovation by a radical editor, in which the text, including the titles and all the verses, is presented at ninety degrees to the usual disposition. The 12-syllable lines being too long for a traditional small format book, the format allows the verses to be read with the book held with the gutter running left to right (rather than top to bottom). Many of the quatrains are by Maréchal himself and he adds a short section of verses by French women at the end: Louise Labé, Catherine Des Roches, Jeanne D’Albret, Marie de Gournay, Henriette de Coligny de La Suze, Madéleine de Scudéry and Antoinette-Thérèse Deshoulières.
This is a rare work by the utopian anarchist Maréchal (1750–1803), ‘one of the most audacious sophists of the 18th century’ (Biographie universelle). It was published in the same year as his notorious Livre échappé au déluge, the indecent parody of the prophets which lost him his position as sub-librarian at the Collège Mazarin. He thereafter lived by his pen and became known as one of the early utopian socialists and an enthusiastic supporter of Babeuf’s anarchist program. Conlon, Prélude au siècle des lumières en France, 84:578, not in Brunet or Quérard. Worldcat lists copies at UC Berkeley, University of Minnesota and Wayne State only outside continental Europe.