1784. A Paphos, Et se trouve à Paris, 1784.
12mo, xxii, 168 pp. Woodcut head and tailpieces. Contemporary mottled calf, backstrip gilt with red gilt-lettered label, marbled edges and endpapers, red ribbon marker. Small marginal losses to A1 and F1, light marginal staining to the front endpapers, calf somewhat rubbed and worn, hinges tender, two wormholes in the spine. A very good unrestored copy with the modern bookplate of Belgian bibliophile Daniel Berditchevsky on front free endpaper.
§ Second edition of this satirical and subversive work on female hysterics, "the vapours," a truly scarce book in both the first and second editions. OCLC locates only three copies of the second edition in North America (McGill, MIT, Rice) and only two in Europe (BNF, Royal Danish Library). The first edition of 1774 is located in only five places (BNF, British Library, Wellcome Collection, UC Berkeley, and ULB Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany).
The book is a tongue-in-cheek guide to the artful deployment of hysterical illness for aristocratic ladies, but it is not the straightforward misogynistic jibe the premise might suggest. Far from simply mocking a trivial feminine fad, the book reveals how women made tactical use of headaches and fainting to negotiate structures of class and gender in French society. The guise of satire and the fact the author may have been male complicates the picture in interesting ways. "Paumerelle's La Philosophie des vapeurs is composed of letters written by a Marquise on the art and use of the vapours, presenting them as an essential tool for any aristocrat worthy of her rank. Although the text begins under the guise of banter, it quickly moves on to overturn common conceptions of the malady. The fragility, sensitiveness, and nervousness usually associated with the vapours give way to strategy and method. The treatise classifies emotions and gestures, formulating a hierarchy among symptoms. One is taught to induce crises following reflection and study, in a linking of ruse and sensibility... While the treatise's formatting in private correspondence is an eminently feminine form, the letters displace perceptions of gender. Women are described as being in perpetual study of their bodies and emotions, developing self-mastery, and controlling their image in society." (Sabine Arnaud, Ruse and Reappropriation in the French Eighteenth Century: La Philosophie des vapeurs by C.-J. de B. de paumerelle, French Studies, Volume 65, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 174–187).
The work was attributed to Claude Paumerelle by the French bibliographer Antoine Alexandre Barbier but little seems to be known about him, other than that he was born circa 1745-6, was a citizen of Rome, and was a member of several Italian academies. His few other recorded works are very unlike this. This second edition appeared ten years after the first, during a heated controversy on the therapeutic uses of magnetism, and with a 10-page "Traité des Crises magnétiques à l'usage des mesmériennes" inserted after a new preamble.
An interesting and very uncommon book, speaking to the power of female pathology in French aristocratic society. Item #123931