An 18th-c. best-seller in the Tsar's library


Les Saisons

Publication: Pissot and Nyon l'ainé, Paris, 1779.

THOMPSON, James, Les Saisons

A Russian Imperial copy of Eisen’s charming plates to illustrate a best-seller of the 18th century.

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Our Notes & References

An early reedition of the first illustrated edition with outstanding Russian imperial provenance.

Between 1754 and 1818 Thomson’s poem was translated into French four times in full and more often in part. The first illustrated edition, with plates after Charles Eisen, came out in Paris in 1759 (with the privilège here still bearing the same date), and was reprinted in 1779 due to a high demand.

The majority of French translators turned Thomson’s verse into prose, with the intention of making The Seasons as accessible as possible to French readers. Once its status as an English classic had been established, The Seasons was increasingly used as a tool of instruction to acquaint readers with British culture.


Gilt arms of Paul I of Russia and Maria Feodorovna; Basil Jacobs, bookplate; William Rees-Mogg, pencil ownership inscription dated 19/06/1963 and stating “Bo. at the Antiquarian Book Fair”.

Paul I, the son of Catherine the Great, he married Maria Fedorovna in 1776 before becoming tsar in 1796 until 1801, when he was deposed and murdered. The arms on this particular binding are those of Paul and Maria together, as Grand Duke and Grand Duchess before the accession to the throne.

Basil Jacobs (1918-1973) was managing director of Willowbrooks tailors and owner of Basil Jacobs Fine Arts Ltd – an art gallery in Bruton Street, London.

William Rees-Mogg, Baron Rees-Mogg (14 July 1928 – 29 December 2012) was a British newspaper journalist who was Editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981; “a Fleet Street legend” according to David Cameron. In the late 1970s, he served as High Sheriff of Somerset, and in the 1980s was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain and Vice-Chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors. Also an owner of Pickering & Chatto, which included an antiquarian book dealing activity.


Cohen-De Ricci 991.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo (17.5 x 10.5 cm.), Fully engraved title (dated 1779), [16] avertissement and dedication, 332, [4] pp. privilège, with 4 engr. plates and 4 engr. vignettes, all engravings by C. Baquoy after C. Eisen.


Near contemporary red morocco, gilt roll and gilt coat-of-arms to covers, spine with raised bands gilt in compartments, green morocco label lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt.


Binding with minimum rubbing, upper cover with a deeper scratch of about an inch. Excellent internal condition.

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