French Royal Bindings of the 17th-19th Centuries

Books with Royal Bookplates

Philip V of Spain

Philip V of Spain (Philippe V; 1683-1746) was the first King of Spain from the Bourbon dynasty (1700-1746). He was the Grand Dauphin's son, a grandson of King Louis XIV, an uncle of Louis XV. In his will, the last king of Spain from the Habsburg dynasty, Charles II named Philip as his heir. During the first thirteen years of his reign, he was forced to defend his right to the Spanish crown against the coalition of European powers in the War of the Spanish Succession (1700-1713). In the last years of his life, Philip was afflicted by a mental disorder.


Tacitus, Cornelius (approx. 55 – approx. 117).

Nouvelle traduction de deux ouvrages de Corneille Tacite. — A Lyon : chez Anisson & Posuel, 1706.

8° (124 х 196 mm). A red marocain binding with gold embossing. Philip V's super ex libris — the King's coat of arms is placed on the front and back covers (is established by: GUIGARD J. Nouvel armorial du bibliophile. T. 1. P. 78).

Provenance: Louis Armand II, Prince of Conti, (1695-1727) (owner's record «Le prince de Conti a donné cet ouvrage a son ami de la … 1719 le 11 de Mai»); owner's record «P. de Tschaadaew».

Shelf mark:

Works  by  Tacitus Works  by  Tacitus Works  by  Tacitus

The book carries the super ex libris that represents the coat of arms of Philip V of Spain. Philip used the ancient compound coat of arms of the Spanish Habsburgs showing the Castilian towers, the León lions, the Aragonese strips, the heraldic signs of Naples, Flanders and Tyrol. The French lilies of the Bourbons were added in the center of the shield. The shield is surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece with a badge in the form of a sheepskin. Spanish kings were grandmasters of the Order since the early 16th century. The Order of the Golden Fleece is supplemented by the French Order of the Holy Spirit with the image of a dove, the most important highest distinction of the French Kingdom.

On the foretitle, there are two inscriptions:"P. de Tschaadaeu" and "Le prince de Conti donnée cet ouvrage a son ami de la …(illegible writing) 1719 le 11 de Mai" ("Prince Conti made a present of this work to his friend & hellip; 1719, 11 May"). Obviously, the second inscription appeared before the first, and judging by the date, the donor was Louis Armand II de Bourbon, Prince de Conti. Louis Armand was a member of the Regent Council over the young Louis XV and a participant in the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720), the continuation of the War of the Spanish Succession against Spain, during which, in January 1719, Prince Conti was appointed Lieutenant-General. Considering the fact that the book was published in Lyons in 1706 and its binding was decorated by the super ex libris of Philip V (who became King of Spain in 1700), it can only be assumed what fate this publication had between 1706 and 1719. Did it belong to the personal library of the Spanish sovereign, and then was presented by him to the French relative? Was it a military trophy brought to France during the war? Was its fate even more amazing?

All these assumptions are incorrect: this book was never in the personal library of Philip V. It is a translation into French of the works of Tacitus. In the foreword, the publisher states the following: "The person who gave me the manuscript of these two translations assured me that they are the fruit of the first studies of one great Sovereign…". The fact is that the translation was made by Philip V himself, and therefore, all copies of this edition, sent to his noble relatives, were originally bound in a red marocain with the heraldic signs of the Spanish king. During the war with Spain, Prince Conti did not want to see the enemy coat of arms in his library and part with the book.

As for the first inscription, there was an assumption that it belongs to the famous Russian thinker P. Chaadayev (1794-1856), the author of scandalous Philosophical Letters. However, the known samples of his writing do not match the inscription on this book, therefore, it is impossible to offer definitive conclusions yet.