[MANUSCRIPT] Recueil de Figures, Concern[an]t la Guerre [Chinois].
Calligraphic manuscript written in French in black ink on polished paper, undated but likely circa 1770, with title-page, running titles etc. all delicately heightened in gold ink. Bound in full French armorial red morocco of the period, the arms (of Antoine de Ricouart de Claye, 1713-1782, Count of Hérouville, a lieutenant general of the French Royal Army) onlaid in white and dark brown morocco in a central oval, the covers finely gilt with some ornaments repeating the armorial charges of a sun and lion, all edges gilt, green silk endsheets. 8 3/4 x 6 7/8 inches (22 x 17 cm); 217 ff. in all on polished paper; consisting of the title leaf and 82 pp. text (the preface and plate descriptions) written in an elegant formal hand of the period; followed by 175 very fine drawings in black ink (drawn rectos only) of Chinese armaments, ranging from armor, pikes and chariots to cannons and firearms, as well as such oddities as floats for river crossings, siege implements etc. The plates are numbered in gold and black, and are keyed to the text; the individual objects are identified in a minute script. Some rubbing to the binding, a short separation near the head of the rear joint (the binding still sturdy and very attractive), old shelf labels at the foot of spine and the upper left of the front cover, the rear endpaper with the deaccession stamp (dated August 17, 1904) of the Austrian National Library.
The original owner of this manuscript, Antoine de Ricouart, Count of Hérouville, was not only a French military man of great eminence in his profession (a lieutenant general was second in rank only to a Maréchal de France), but he was also a philosophe, an intellectual of the Enlightenment. A founder of the Royal Society of Agriculture of Paris, de Ricouart contributed to a variety of scientific publications, and was a contributor to Diderot's great Encyclopédie. On his death, he was working on a history of war, and it is probable that the present luxurious volume was prepared at some point as part of his research. Given the emphasis on the drafting of intricate maps, plans and charts that was part of every French officer's training, it seems plausible that this exceptional manuscript was prepared by de Ricouart himself.
There was a great deal of interest in matters Chinese in late 18th century France, fueled by the accounts of Jesuit travellers and scholars, especially the work of Joseph Marie Amiot, whose Art militaire des Chinois... introduced Sun Tzu's Art of War to the West. Amiot's work was adorned with plates of Chinese weaponry, not dissimilar to those in the present work, though according to the preface to the manuscript, these superbly drafted illustrations are taken from a forty-volume Chinese encyclopedic compilation by a Ming Dynasty author, Wan Khi, and his second son. Allowing for orthographic differences in the names of the authors, this is certainly the 1609 Sancai Tuhui ("Pictorial Compendium of the Three Realms"), an illustrated encyclopedia that was compiled by Wang Qi and Wang Siyi, his son.
That this Ming-era work was available in some form in France at that period is somewhat unexpected, as very few Chinese works, even in synopsis, were available to French scholars. I would conjecture that Henri-Léonard Bertin, the controller general of finances to Louis XV, a sponsor and correspondent of Amiot who was deeply interested in China, who was in consequence something of a gatekeeper to material on Chinese culture in France, had obtained a copy of the Sancai Tuhui and made it accessible to de Ricouart. Bertin owned an extensive library on Chinese art and culture (the "Cabinet Bertin") and it is very likely that the two knew each other through court circles and their common interests in agriculture. For the arms, see Olivier-Hermal Manuel de l'amateur de reliures armoriées françaises 2322.
C Estate of Nancy Hoguet Tilghman
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