[Constantin François, Comte de Volney.] Autograph Letter Signed ('C Volney'), in English, to the publisher Sir Richard Phillips, discussing plans for a new London edition of his 'Ruins of Empires', previously translated by Thomas Jefferson.

Comte de Volney [Constantin François de Chassebœuf, Comte de Volney] (1757-1820), radical French politician [Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840), author and publisher; Thomas Jefferson; Joel Barlow]
Publication details: 
Paris. 3 August 1818.
SKU: 21128

Volney's 'Ruines' (1791) was extremely influential, particularly in the United States. In 1796 Volney met Thomas Jefferson at Monticello to discuss Jefferson's plan to translate the book into English. Jefferson had completed the greater part of his translation by the time he mounted his 1800 bid for the presidency, at which point he handed over the project to Joel Barlow, who translated the last four chapters and, at Jefferson's request, put his name to the whole translation, which was published in 1801. The present letter concerns plans for a translation to be published in London by Phillips. In the event, a translation of the fifth edition of Volney's work appeared in London in 1819, published by the radical Thomas Davison (1796-1824) rather than by Phillips. The present letter is 1p., 4to. Twenty-four lines of English text, neatly and closely written. On the recto of the first leaf of a bifolium, with the address ('Sir Richard Philips [sic] | rue des moulins no 26.') on the verso of the second leaf. In good condition, lightly aged, with stub of mount still attached, and neat repair to foot of second leaf. The letter begins: 'Sir, | A copy of Barlow's translation being not immediately obvious in this city, where none was sold, i [sic] take this opportunity to procure the best use to mine, as deposited in your hands, it will grow advantageous to the public, suitable to your plan of reprinting the book, and still not miss'd by me, since it will revive corrected and improuved [sic] by the fifth edition […] the corrections you will introduce, are to secure your right of publishing.' He does not believe anyone would 'trouble it', since he is himself 'the only representative of the anonymous author [Jefferson?] who acknowledg'd my influence and left in my hands the engraved plates that might be at your disposal'. He wonders whether 'the jealousy of your national duties' will allow Phillips to use the plates. In order to 'facilitate the corrections' he is sending 'a note of the pages in the french fifth edition, where are introduced the most notable alterations, laying aside the Suppression of some historical notes, the intermixture of any with the text, seems to me a great defect in the english edition'. He has read a 'few lines' of Phillips's 'Morning Walk', and is 'sensible of the art and the praisefull [sic] scope of the author, but how many beauties are veiled to a foreigner who knows neither the peculiarities of the local, nor the delicacies of the language as you see by my gallican Style'. He gives Phillips 'a pledge of my gratitude for your obliging dealings, of my trust in your indulgence, and of my wish to continue a free intercourse of mind and heart with you.' He ends 'with esteem and consideration'.