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3 Books - 1731 French Fantasy of Ancient Egypt

France, 1731 CE. This is a first edition of an influential French fantasy novel, Life of Sethos, Taken from Private Memoirs of the Ancient Egyptians, written by the French Abbe Jean Terrasson and published at Chez Jacques Guerin, Libraire-Imprimeur, located on the Quay des Augustins. The books themselves are in good condition and completely readable; bound in fine leather with stamped spines. Sethos occupies a fascinating role in intellectual history, part of the tradition of Enlightenment thinkers and writers drawing upon Classical texts to say things about their own world. The book purports to be a translation of an ancient manuscript that Terrasson has found in an unnamed and mysterious nation; he writes that the author is an anonymous Greek in the second century CE. This is very much in the tradition of historical fantasy authors of his time. Sethos, an Egyptian pharaoh who was originally described by Herodotus, is the hero of the story; in Terrasson's version, he combines elements of Masonic ritual and ancient Egyptian mythology. Terrasson was born in Lyon and elected to the Academie Francaise in 1707; in 1721, he became the professor of Greek at the College de France. Edward Gibbon was a fan, describing Terrasson as a scholar and philosopher and saying the book had variety and originality. The book was hugely popular, translated into English in 1732 (other languages soon followed) and went on to inspire a variety of things, most notably the Egyptian setting and themes of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. Size: 1.25" L x 4" W x 6.75" H (3.2 cm x 10.2 cm x 17.1 cm)

Provenance: Ex-Nikotovich collection acquired before 1980

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