Brussels: Alph. Lebègue et Sacré Fils, 1844. First Edition. Hardcover. 5 vols. 1st edition (jamais vu), preceding all other editions including multiple Brussels editions from Meline, Muquardt, and Société Belge de Librairie Hauman, as well as Baudry’s 1844 Paris edition (issued last of all the 1844 editions). 1st issue (Lebègue in 18mo.) preceding their reissue in 24mo. This is the real 1st edition, listed first by Munro (Alexandre Dumas Père. A Bibliography of Works Published in French) without dispute, and prior to any other 1844 edition. It’s also the rarest edition of Mousquetaires. Full French, glazed and diced, blindstamped paper covered boards. Pinpoint rubs to corners, page 183 in vol. V with a short tear to the margin (just touching but not taking 2 letters of text), else fine, complete with all 5 half–titles, and all 10 original printed wrappers (front and back) bound in. An amazing unearthing, rare by any criterion. Munro lists a set (not ours) so that makes 2 recorded, but let me continue. No copies of this Lebègue edition at auction in 50 years (the only Brussels editions sold at auction in that time were 2 copies, 13 years ago, of Meline’s Brussels and Leipzig imprint, the 2nd Meline edition, the 6th overall, and the most common of the 7 Brussels editions, by 4 publishers, listed by Munro in 1844). More surprisingly, OCLC located no (zero) sets of this Lebègue 1st edition in any National or University library, and only single volumes I, II, and V at Sommerpalais, Germany (OCLC does record libraries holding sets of the other Brussels editions and, of course, extensive holdings of Baudry’s Paris edition). Coll: –181, [1,blank]. –172. –171, [1 blank]. –163. [1 blank]. –223, [1 blank] pp. Let me repeat. This is the true 1st edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires, as recorded in the most current and most comprehensive bibliography, one of 2 known sets, and think about this. No other 19th century novel with stature comparable to Les Trois Mousquetaires has a census that shows it to be anywhere near as rare. Tous pour un, un pour tous. fine. Item #329
The 1st appearance was a daily serialization in the newspaper Le Siècle (The Century) from March 14 to July 14, 1844. The Brussels editions were also serialized 1 volume at a time as soon as enough of the novel had appeared in the newspaper to make up a volume, and the mosh pit frenzy of the Brussels publishers to get the progressive volumes of their editions out as quickly as possible, insures that each individual volume’s exact date of publication will remain an open question. That said, Lebègue’s edition holds supremacy as the 1st because their edition had both its first and last volumes issued before the others, and there is no doubt it’s the rarest. And beyond rational dispute is that all the 1844 Brussels editions precede the 1844 Paris edition (it’s more sure with this title than with many others) because after the serial was completed, and with the Brussels editions fully published and being sold, Dumas casually opened Paris book publication rights for bidding while he unnecessarily revised the text (most who have read both texts agree the original is better than the revised). The winner (in a feisty rivalry) was finally Baudry, and he paid a lot for the Paris rights so his printing was larger than usual, but despite his edition not having priority over any Brussels edition, and being more common than any of the other Paris editions of Dumas’ foremost novels, it would still be preferred in some Continental circles, though in wider circles “1st edition” still carries all the weight. And yes, it’s odd that Baudry’s 1st Paris edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires is the most common of the Paris 1st editions of Dumas’ major novels, while Lebègue’s true 1st edition of it seems the rarest one all.