[Desmond Flower.] Three Autograph Catalogues of his book collections: first, 'MSS., autograph letters, first & early editions by & relating to François Marie Arouet de Voltaire'; second and third, 'French Literature in first and early editions'.

Desmond Flower [Desmond John Newman Flower] (1907-1997), director of London publishers Cassell & Co, 1931-1971, and book collector [Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) (1694-1778)]
Publication details: 
Neither catalogue with place or date. [London, from the 1940s?]
SKU: 14393

All three items in very good condition, in superior bindings. ONE (Voltaire catalogue): Written out by Flower in his neat, calligraphic hand, on the rectos only of 102 leaves, 8vo, with some blanks. In very good condition, in a lightly-wrn red morocco quarter binding, with grey boards and gilt title on spine. Entries are short and businesslike, as the following two examples indicate: 'Commentaire sur le livre des Délits et des Peines, s.l., 1766. Bengesco 1724. pp. viii + 120. A pretty copy in contemporary scarlet morocco. Ex libris Mortimer L. Schiff. | Ditto, s.l., 1766. pp. 104 + iii. Not in Bengesco. Nice copy, bound with Beccaria's work. Philadelphia, 1766. Contpy half calf, sprinkled paper sides.' and 'Henriade, La Haye, Gosse & Neaulme, 1728 | B368. Original wrappers. A good copy of a bad book. Boxed by Gray.' TWO: Title by Flower: 'Catalogue of a library of French Literature in first and early editions, excluding Voltaire. | [signed] Desmond Flower | Catalogue begun 22 May 1948'. In brown morocco quarter-binding, with raised bands, green leather label with title in gilt, and marbled boards. Flower's bookplate on front pastedown, and his ownership signature on the front free endpaper. Small 8vo, foliated in pencil by Flower to 300, with many leaves blank. Three-page index ranges from Daniel Rops to Diderot, from Daudet to Malherbe, from Pierre Loti to Richelieu. Two pages of notes by Flower regarding the arrangement of the volume at rear. The bibliographical information in the entries is supplemented by some short annotation. Two examples: 'Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy | (1618-1693) | Memoires, Paris, Anisson, 1696. 2 vols, 4to. | 19th century quarter calf. Fine copy, particularly good impression of the portrait. First edition, important in itself, but in addition containing the first letters to appear in print of Mme de Sevigné, his first cousin.' and 'Fréderic II, Roi de Prusse (1712-86) | Considerations sur l'état de la Russie sous Pierre le Grand, 1791. 8vo. Contemporary full calf. Napoleon Bonaparte's copy, bound for him in his first, early style with the initials "PB" on the spine; on the title-page the stamp "Biblioteque de la Malmaison".' THREE: Title by Flower: 'Catalogue of a Collection of French Literature in first and early editions formed by Desmond Flower, excluding Voltaire - who is catalogued separately.' In full red morocco binding, with Flower's crest stamped in gilt on front board, and his monogram on spine. Paginated to 149 (with some blanks), large 8vo, with another three pages at start, including title, index (authors ranging from Descartes to Huysmans, from Apollinaire to Brillat-Savarin). The following note appears to explain the abandonment of Item Two: 'Unfortunately in beginning this catalogue, I did not give sufficient consideration to the letters of the alphabet which predominate in French literature. There developed, therefore, hopeless congestion in some parts of the book and many pages of blank paper in others. I was forced finally to abandon any attempt to catalogue the authors strictly alphabetically, as was my obvious first intention, and in consequence some will be found in the most peculiar places. The index is the only help and salvation in this unsatisfactory situation.' The entry for Napoleon's copy of Frederic the Great's 'Considerations sur l'état de la Russie sous Pierre Le Grand' (Berlin, 1791) adds a little information to that in Item Two (see above) 'from Napoleon's first library with the cipher PB in the bottom part of the spine. Also stamped in the title page (very badly) "Bibliothèque de a Malmaison'. According to Flower's obituary in the Independent (31 March 1997): 'Voltaire had for some time the centre of his book-collecting, and this led in 1947 to the idea for an exhibition of French books at the National Book League. "A Thousand Years of French Books", thanks to generous loans from private and public collections, notably the Bibliotheque Nationale, was a bibliophilic feast after wartime starvation. Flower became a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, and was encouraged to put on an equally successful exhibition of English books in the Galerie Mazarine.' The Desmond Flower Collection of Voltaire is now part of the Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas.