M. DESGRANGES FROM THE FILE OF FAMED BIBLIOPHILE SIR THOMAS PHILLIPPS: ARCHIVE LOT OF TWO HANDWRITTEN AUTOGRAPH LETTERS TO ANTOINE LE CAMUS, DOCTOR OF THE FACULTY OF MEDICINE, PARIS C.1750s
Paris 1760 Manuscript Very Good Autograph
Two handwritten ALS, one dated Paris, February, and what appears to be 1760 (maybe 1750), letter to Antoine Le Camus (1722 - 1772 physician, poet [author of La Medecine de l'Espirit] also noted for warning the women of his day against the use of cosmetics having mercury). Monsieur Desgranges writes in the first letter an apology for not having responded to Camus' earlier letters. It appears Desgrange's father had only recently told his son of the accumulation of letters unanswered. He asks Camus to come by and is very apologetic. Letter 2, undated and apparently unconnected, wherein Desgrange urges Camus to see him as the medicines he is taking are not working. He complains of a 5-day headache and a sore that is not healing. Biographical Notes: SIR THOMAS PHILLIPPS (1792-1872). Born in 1792, Sir Thomas Phillipps from childhood was obsessed with the idea of obtaining virtually anything written or printed on paper, including cartloads of documents from wastepaper merchants and the entire inventories of booksellers. "I wish to have one copy of every book in the world," he declared to a friend. He very nearly succeeded. His collection ultimately grew to more than 100,000 books and at least 60,000 manuscripts. As a result of his extravagant purchases, Sir Thomas was permanently on the verge of bankruptcy and was constantly pursued by creditors. So many books arrived at his house that it was impossible to unpack his acquisitions much less keep pace with them. Visiting scholars, driven to distraction, would spend days hunting for an elusive text in the dusty heaps that filled every room. Because Sir Thomas has a morbid dread of fire, most of his collection was housed in coffinlike boxes that could be carted away quickly. Visitors to Middle Hill were struck too, by the presence of numerous logs, a ploy he used to lure beetles away from his books. As Sir Thomas relentlessly pursued his passion, the house itself began to crumble and its floors started to sag under the cast weight of hundreds of tons of paper. His neglect of Middle Hill was partly deliberate, however. Sir Thomas's chief enemy in life, James Halliwell, had married his daughter against his wishes. It appears that Halliwell was, in Sir Thomas' eyes, the worst kind of criminal, a book thief who had stolen valuable works from university libraries and even from his father-in-law. Having no sons, Sir Thomas was unable to prevent Halliwell from inheriting his estate. To ensure that his detested heir would never receive anything of value, Sir Thomas's solution was to allow Middle Hill to fall unto complete disrepair. He even went so far as to chop down and sell for lumber the centuries-old oak trees that lined the majestic mile-long drive to his home. In 1863 Sir Thomas decided to move - in order to accommodate his books. With the aid of 160 men, 103 wagonloads of books and papers drawn by 230 horses, the books were lumbered from Middle Hill top their new estate in nearby Cheltenham. It is said that for years afterwards the countryside was littered with the remains of carts that had collapsed under the sheer weight of the Phillipps collection. Sir Thomas continues to add to his library until his death in 1872. After Sir Thomas's death, his immediate family had no room for his collection. So vast was the library that although individual items and large sections were sold privately or through numerous auction sales, the Phillipps collection is still being sold more than a century after the death of its owner. In the course of its sales, many treasures have come to light. As late as 1964, part of the long-lost and unique medieval manuscript of the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses appeared and was subsequently reunited with its other half at Magdalen College, Oxford. Once destined for destruction as worthless wastepaper, this and many other priceless works were saved by the single-minded obsession of the greatest bibliomaniac of all time.