Lettre sur l’homme … — Paris 1772.
Lettre sur l’homme et ses rapports … — Paris, n. p., 1772.
12mo (leaves are 160 x 98 mm, type area is 84 x 43 mm). 242 p. – Stoddard no. 4a.
A few copies of Hemsterhuis‘ books exist with ‚dono auctoris‚ or ‚Present van den Auteur‚ written by the recipients to whom Hemsterhuis has sent a copy; a copy with an autograph dedication by Hemsterhuis himself seems to be of utmost rarity. Of the 58 copies of Hemsterhuis‘ books described by Roger Stoddard (The Book Collector vol. 50 no. 2, 2001) none has an autograph dedication by Hemsterhuis; also in the Maas-Collection of Hemsterhuis, now in the Royal Library in Den Haag, there was no such copy. I never saw a dedication copy myself in the last forty years when Hemsterhuis came into my focus.
We know that Hemsterhuis send a number of copies of the Lettre to his friend François Fagel (1740-1773): four in maroquin, two in calf, six or seven in wrappers.1 Since our copy was not bound by Christiaan Micke in maroquin or calf it must have been one of the copies in wrappers (the Dutch word in the list is „ingenaeit“), of which Fagel at least one gave to his bookbinder to have it bound in full calf.
As far as we know, Hemsterhuis, a book esthete par excellance, would never write anything on a title-page of one of his books not to destroy the meticulous design of the page.2 However, here we may have the only exception he made. The Lettre sur l’homme … is composed and written as a cours de philosophie for his promising and highly esteemed friend François Fagel. In almost none of Hemsterhuis‘ books could a dedication be more appropriate than in this one.
After the sudden early death of François Fagel in 1773 Hemsterhuis published Description philosophique du caractère de feu Mr. F. Fagel.
1 University Librar Münster has the autograph list of books sent by H. (Gallitzin Nachlass, Kapsel, 37 map 6).
2 To me it seems only natural that H. did not choose a grand-papier copy in maroquin or calf bound in Micke’s high quality and great esthetic value bindings, but a ‚papier-ordinaire‘ copy in wrappers.