Brussels: Alph. Lebègue, 1844. First Edition. Hardcover. 5 vols. in 2. 1st edition (published by Lebègue), 1st issue (in 18mo.). Undoubtedly the real 1st edition, listed first by Munro (Alexandre Dumas Pere. A Bibliography of Works Published in French), its priority undisputed by anyone credible, and preceding all other 1844 editions, including those from Meline, Muquardt, 3 editions from Librairie Hauman, Lebègue’s reissue in 24mo., and Baudry’s 1844 Paris edition (issued last of all the 1844 editions and the most common). Contemporary half calf, some rubbing and wear, joints strengthened, else very good, and complete with all 5 half–titles. Collation: –181, [1 blank]. – 172. –171, [1 blank]. –163.[1 blank]. –223, [1 blank] pp. Fine half morocco and wood veneer case. Very good. Item #452
A scream out loud unearthing, rare by any criterion, and read the next sentence slowly. This is the rarest 1st edition, by census, of any novel, by anyone, that could accurately be called a classic. Munro’s bibliography lists a set he saw, so with our set that’s 2, and we’ve located 2 others in private hands. That means 4 are now known. No copies of this Lebègue edition are listed as sold at auction. The only other Brussels editions sold at auction since 1980 were 2 copies with Meline’s Brussels and Leipzig imprint, the 2nd of Meline’s editions, the 6th overall, and the most regularly seen of the 8 Brussels issues from 1844. More surprisingly OCLC/World Cat located no (zero) sets of our Lebègue 1st edition in any National or University library and only single volumes I, II, and V at Sommerpalais, Germany. OCLC does, of course, record libraries holding multiple sets of the other, later Brussels editions, but “who cares?” comes to mind. Let me repeat. This is the correct 1st edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires, one of 4 known copies, and in rare book world that is colossal. If I had a tail, I’d wag it.
Tous pour un, un pour tous.
The 1st appearance was a daily serialization in the newspaper Le Siècle (The Century, or some translate it as The Age) from Mar. 14–Jul. 14, 1844. Our Alph. Lebègue edition holds priority over all other book editions, and it is also the rarest. The reason (in this case) that all the 1844 Brussels editions of Les Trois Mousquetaires precede the 1844 Paris edition, is because after the newspaper serial was completed, and with at least 4 of the Brussels editions fully published and being sold, Dumas casually opened Paris book publication rights for bidding while he (unnecessarily) wrote a short preface and slightly revised the text. Most who have read both texts concur that the original is better than the revised. The winner of Dumas’ auction for Paris book rights (in a feisty rivalry) was finally Baudry, and he paid a lot for the privilege, so he published a larger edition than was usual for the Paris editions of Dumas’ novels up to that time. And yes, it’s odd (I’m amazed if there ever was one) that Baudry’s (Paris) edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires is the most common of the Paris 1st editions of Dumas’ major novels, while Lebègue’s (Brussels) edition of it is the rarest Brussels 1st edition of them all, and yet most booksellers continue to offer the Paris edition at excessive prices, without mentioning that it’s the 5th edition, because that’s the edition they can find, and so they snuggle up against it like a sick kitten to a warm brick.
You think you’ve read it in English? Maybe not. Richard Pevear’s 2006 translation is the first complete, uncut, unsanitized, unbowdlerized edition in English ever published.