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Religion & Philosophy
Battle of the Biographers
[SWEDEN / CHARLES XII / VOLTAIRE] FABRICE, Friedrich Ernst von.. Anecdotes du sejour du roi de Suede a Bender, ou, Lettres de Mr. le baron de Fabrice pour servir d’eclaircissement a l’histoire de Charles XII. Hamburg, Christian Herold, 1760.
Large 8vo [20 x 14 cm], (4) ff., 343 pp. Bound in contemporary polished calf, gilt spine with raised bands and morocco title label, covers scuffed and worn, a few red pencil markings in text of introduction, minor foxing and toning throughout, a little heavier on some leaves, very good.
$1,250 Rare first French edition (first German: 1759) of this account of Charles XII’s exile in Turkey, published on the request of Voltaire to supplement his biography of the monarch and validate it vis-à-vis the rival biography published by Nordberg. Baron de Fabrice (1683-1759) had accompanied the Swedish king during his four-year stay near the Black Sea in Moldavia following his disastrous defeat at the battle of Poltava in 1709, and reproduces here a number of letters written from there to the Duke of Holstein and Charles’ Minister of State, Baron de Goertz
In 1731, Voltaire published his Histoire de Charles XII, a historical narrative informed by his fascination with the charismatic king, but ultimately critical of the devastation wrought by his military campaigns. For this work – his first—Voltaire relied on the testimony from a number of witnesses who knew the king, including Fabrice, whom he had met in London.
In 1740, a biography of Charles XII by his chaplain and confessor, Nordberg, appeared in Sweden. Piqued by critical references to his own work, Voltaire set out to revise his Histoire, which he published in a new edition in 1748. In the introduction to the present, the anonymous editor mentions the rivalry between Voltaire and Nordberg and claims that “for a long time now” Voltaire had been requesting the publication of Fabrice’s letters, “documents known only to persons employed in secret affairs or negotiations, and which naturally would have remained unknown to the authors and editors who have rendered posterity the History of this Prince.” (p.3) He adds that the original letters “written in code” are kept in the archives of an unnamed Duke and hopes that their publication will shed new light on the life of a monarch who evidently continued to fascinate, decades after his death in 1718.
OCLC : Delaware, Harvard, Illinois, Minneapolis, NYPL, Syracuse, Yale
* ale record. Blackmer 568. Warmholtz 5788 & 5718; Atabey 413 (London 1761 edition).
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