Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was the greatest French composer of the eighteenth century and, in the words of Graham Sadler, "one of the greatest figures in French musical history". Rameau's keyboard works are remarkable for their varied textures, extended range and dazzling virtuosity. First editions of Rameau's later operas and ballets are sometimes found, but those of his keyboard works rarely appear at auction. Previously Sotheby's has sold two copies of the second edition dated 1731 (29 November 1985, lot 190 & 20 November 2014, lot 183) and one of the 1736 edition (André Meyer collection, 16/17 October 2012, lot 258), but not the first. The Comtesse de Chambure copy of the second edition was offered at Hôtel Drouot (5 April 1995, lot 86), but we have not traced any other auction records for Rameau's Pièces de clavecin.
The four pages containing the penultimate piece, 'Les Cyclopes', were originally engraved on folding sheets so that they could be played without page-turns. In the British Library copy e.1300.c., pages 29 & 30 have to be folded out above 31 & 32 respectively, exposing them to damage. In three of the known copies, these four pages have been partly or completely lost, including one each at the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale. All the pages are present here, but 29 & 30 evidently became creased and torn at an early stage and were bound in between 31 & 32 in this order: pp.28, 31, blank, 29, 30, blank, 32 & 33 (page 31 is engraved on the verso of 28, with 29 originally hinged above).
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