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Aphra Behn, Oronoko, Paris 1756.

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€6.500,00 EUR
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€6.500,00 EUR

Aphra Behn’s masterpiece in a rarely seen edition, with a happy ending

Aphra Behn (1640-1689); Pierre-Antoine de La Place (1707-1793) [transl.].

Oronoko imité de l’Anglois. Nouvelle edition, revuë & corrigée […].

Paris, Sebastien Jorry, 1756.


2 parts in 1 vol. 12°. XVI, 112, [4], 188, [4] pp. = complete with the Approbation and advertisement leaves at the end (not called for in bibliographies and library records).

Contemporary quarter calf, marbled sides, title label.

Very rare and interesting third edition of the first French translation of Aphra Behn’s masterpiece Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave (London, 1688). This famous female author’s novel presents a black person as sympathetic for the first time in Western literature and strongly denounces the cruelties of slavery. It is about an African prince who is tricked into slavery and sold to European planters in Surinam, ending in rebellion and execution. It also includes a description of Surinam and its inhabitants. Author Aphra Behn is considered the true first English woman of letters. The French translation that we offer here was made by Pierre-Antoine de La Place, a prolific translator of English plays, Shakespeare in particular. He edited his Oroonoko translation three times, the one we offer here being his final and most liberal adaptation and therefore arguably the most interesting. A major change to the original text that he made was adding a happy ending with the return to Africa of the hero and his family.
The first edition of De La Place's translation appeared in 1745 at Amsterdam, titled Oronoko, ou Le prince nègre, and the second came out as Les avantures curieuses & interessants d'Oronoko, prince afriquain in 1755-1756 at The Hague. The fact that the present third edition was not a literal one was seen as “très intéressant […] il a adouci quelques détails révoltants pour la délicatesse française” (see Lacroix). It is very rare; we traced no copies in auction records, not in Sabin, and WorldCat lists only one copy: National Library of France (BnF). There seems to be no digitized copy available. Our copy has an extra two Approbation and advertisement leaves at the end that are not called for in bibliographies or the BnF record. This third edition also appeared in 1769, 1779, and in 2008.

Condition: binding rubbed with small defect to spine. Small tear in foot margin of second title-page. A couple leaves lacking blank corners. Otherwise in very good condition.

Literature: cf. Sabin 4373 (1745 ed.); Hogg 4162: 1745 edition.

Edward D. Seeber, “Oroonoko in France in the XVIIIth Century.” PMLA, vol. 51, no. 4, 1936, pp. 953–959.

Mary Ann O'Donnell, Aphra Behn: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources. London, 2004, A31.1b 1759.

Paul Lacroix, Bibliothèque de la reine Marie-Antoinette au Petit Trianon, 1863, p. 69, no. 407.

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