Brussels: Lebègue, 1844. First Edition. Hardcover. 5 vols. in 2. 1st edition preceding all others, 1st issue (published by Lebègue in 18mo.). The real 1st edition, 1 of 4 known sets, listed first by Munro (Alexandre Dumas Pere. A Bibliography of Works Published in French), without dispute, and prior to anybody else’s 1844 edition, including multiple editions listed by Munro from Meline, Hauman, and Muquardt, as well as Lebègue’s reissue in 24mo., and Baudry’s 1844 Paris edition (issued last of all the 1844 editions). Contemporary half morocco, marbled boards, a chunk of pages in vol. II bound out of order (easy to reposition) but a complete copy with all 5 half–titles, in very good condition. An amazing unearthing, rare by any criterion. Munro lists a set (not ours), and we know 2 others off a dedicated worldwide search, so that makes 4 recorded, and again, if anyone knows of another real set I’d like to hear about it, but let me continue. No copies of this Lebègue edition at auction in 50 years (the only Brussels editions of Les Trois Mousquetaires recorded as sold at auction were 2 copies, of Meline’s Brussels and Leipzig imprint 13 years ago, and that issue is the 2nd Meline edition, the 6th overall, and the most common of the 7 Brussels editions 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). Collation: –181, [1,blank]. –172. –171, [1 blank]. –163. [1 blank]. –223, [1 blank] pp. Let me repeat. This is, inarguably, the real 1st edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires, as recorded in the most comprehensive bibliography, and with only 4 known sets, that says something huge, so think about this. No other 19th century novel by anybody, 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. Very good. Item #344
The 1st appearance was a daily serialization in the newspaper Le Siècle (The Age) from March 14 to July 14, 1844, 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, and the exact order of those individual volumes will remain an open question. However, Lebègue’s edition holds supremacy as the first of all, because their edition had both its first volume and last volume issued before the others. It also holds supremacy as the rarest of all. And all the 1844 Brussels editions precede the 1844 Paris edition (it’s more sure with this title than with many of the others) because after the serial was completed, and with the Brussels editions fully published and already being sold, Dumas casually opened Paris book publication rights for bidding while he unnecessarily revised the text (most who have read both texts agree that the original is better than the revised). The winner (in a feisty rivalry) was finally Baudry, and he paid a lot for the rights so he printed a larger than usual edition, but despite his edition not having any priority against the Brussels editions, and being more frequently seen than any of the other Paris editions of Dumas’ foremost novels, it would still get hyped as more desirable by some Continental sellers than the Brussels editions that precede it, although in other, wider circles “real 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 (11 copies of Baudry’s Paris edition have sold at auction since 1978, 4 copies are for sale right now, and we have a 5th set in hand that’s not cataloged yet), while Lebègue’s true 1st edition of it is the rarest Brussels 1st edition of them all (no sales at auction and no other set for sale anywhere).