Paris: N. Bonnart, ca. 1690. First Edition. 12mo (15.5cm.); armorial binding of Madame de Maintenon, full crimson morocco adorned with her coat-of-arms on both covers, triple-ruled in gilt with diminutive repeating rampant lions at each corner, elaborate gilt spine in six compartments, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers; 100pp.; illus. and calligraphic text printed entirely from copper-plates, this copy featuring the more often-found depiction of an empty cross within a crown of thorns printed on title page verso. Light rubbing to extremities, brief discoloration to upper cover from exposure to damp, inoffensive paper flaw to front pastedown from previously-removed ex libris, slightly later ink note in Latin to front flyleaf, else a Very Good or better copy of an exquisite production in a desirable presentation binding. Though dedication signed in text "N.D.T.," a sermon of this title can be found in the complete works of Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704), tutor of the same children to whom Maintenon had served as governess. Item #1373
Small and beautifully-produced prayer book dedicated to Madame de Maintenon (1635-1719), by then the morganatic not-so-secret second wife of Louis XIV, published for the use of the Maison Royale de Saint-Louis, a boarding school Maintenon founded in St. Cyr for the education of the orphans and children of the poorer French nobility. The text, printed entirely from copper-plates, is interspersed with delicate vignettes of flowers, views of the French countryside, and soothing religious imagery (the lamb asleep on the cross), details presumably dotting the text to keep Maintenon's wards engaged while deep in prayer.
Volumes bound in the Maintenon armorial bindings are relatively scarce, their owner having not organized any semblance of a personal library until quite late in life. Though married to the king of France for over thirty years, Madame de Maintenon (née Françoise d'Aubigné, later Madame Scarron) came from a modest background she never forsook. Raised in the Calvinist church, the young Aubigné was orphaned at an early age and subsequently educated in an Ursuline convent where she converted to Catholicism, her devotion to the Church one of her most notable qualities throughout her long and increasingly illustrious career. By the time she reached womanhood, her straitened circumstances led her to marry the significantly older and paralytic author Monsieur Scarron, noting that "I have entered a union in which the heart requires little and the body, in truth, nothing at all" (my translation). Widowed within less than a decade, the beautiful and pious Madame Scarron had by now seduced the French nobility at court and was quickly summoned by the Marquise de Montespan to be governess to the children she had borne Louis XIV out of wedlock. It was in this role that she caught the king's attention, who bestowed upon her the money which she used to purchase the Chateau de Maintenon as well as the title of Marquise de Maintenon. During the decade of the 1670s the king spent more and more of his time with his children's governess, causing a predictable rupture between her and the Marquise de Montespon, though Maintenon forever avowed that she never stooped to the level of mistress. In 1683 Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon were married in a secret ceremony, and while she never filled the role of Queen of France, she was the king's chief advisor until the end of his days. (See Ernest Quentin-Bauchart, "Les Femmes Bibliophiles de France" (1886), pp. -272.)
A note about the binding: The example of the Maintenon coat-of-arms depicted on this volume not listed in Olivier-Hermal-Roton, presumably having been produced specially for this, the dedication copy--the British Library notes a similar example of another unique cut, on their dedication copy of Cordemoy's "Divers Traitez de Controverse" (1701).