Bruxelles: Alph. Lebegue et Sacre Fils, 1844.
First edition, first issue in book form, precedes the Paris edition (1st Pirated edition). Five small volumes (5 3/8 x 3 1/2 inches; 137 x 90 mm). -181, [1, blank]; -172; -171, [1, blank]; -163, [1, blank]; -223, [1, blank] pp. Each volume with half-title.
This is the technical first edition in book form of Les Trois Mousquetaires, although an unauthorized edition. Of the seven pirated Belgium editions mentioned by Douglas Munro in his "Alexandre Dumas Père, A Bibliography of Works published in French 1825–1900", Munro states that this present edition (Lebégue) is the first of them. This edition pre-dates the regularly published first edition put out by Baudry in 1844. All Belgian editions are extremely rare, perhaps even more so than the rare first Paris editions. We could not find any copies of this specific edition at auction in the last forty years, nor could we find any copies at libraries. There seem to be two Belgian editions at libraries, but neither are this publisher.
Volumes uniformly bound in contemporary half blue calf over blindstamped marbled cloth. The blindstamping is in a toile pattern with small Mousquetaire-like figures with swords, on horses, and castles. Spines stamped in blind and lettered in gilt. Yellow endpapers. All edges speckled brown. Each volume with a silk page marker.
Overall a near fine set.
Les Trois Mousquetaires, was originally published as a serial novel, appearing one chapter at a time in the Parisian newspaper Le Siècle from March 14, 1844 to July 1, 1844. It was originally advertised as "Athos, Porthos and Aramis," but upon it's first appearance in Le Siècle it was given the title Les Trois Mousquetaires. The story was extremely popular and immediately various Belgian publishers raced to print and distribute copies which were small and inexpensive.
Dumas bibliographer Frank Wild notes "Issue by issue of Le Siècle was hastily acquired by the piratical publishers of Brussels, and as quickly the portion of Les Trois Mousquetaires which it contained was set up by them in type; then, as sufficient to form a volume accumulated, this was given to the public. Though these copies were `interdicted for France,' being small and unobtrusive many found their way across the frontiers." (The Colophon New Series, Vol. III, No. 3, Summer 1938 ("Dumas Revises `The Three Musketeers'").
It has been universally determined that these Belgian editions indeed came before the official Paris Baudry edition which was also published in 1844. Reasoning behind this is that this title is the only know instance within his romances where Dumas, after the publication in Le Siécle, asked to proof-read Les Trois Mousquetaires, and decided to make minor revisions. Additionally, Dumas opened up bidding for the publishing rights in Paris and ultimately Baudry was the high bidder and won the rights. All these textual changes that were made as well as the time it took for the French publishers to bid on the story speaks to the length of time it took to produce the official first edition. Another interesting thing to note is that because the Belgian editions took the text straight from the serial, these editions are the only ones which contain Dumas original, unrevised story.
" Frank Reed extensively analyzes the differences between the Belgium editions and those of Baudry and Calmann Lévy, who reprinted the Baudry text, and notes that most of the early translations were made from the Belgium editions, which were considerably less expensive than the authorized French edition. He also notes that, in many instances, Dumas' revisions were not necessarily improvements on the original. Given the time frame, the fairly extensive revising of the Baudry text by Dumas seems inevitably to have caused a delay in publication not encountered by the hasty Belgium publishers." (PBA Galleries)
Reed, F. W. A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas, Père. London, 1933.
Munro, D. Alexandre Dumas Père, A Bibliography of Works published in French 1825–1900. New York, 1981 (Page 143).