(33)  James Ehrhart Copinger


He was about to enter the diplomatic service in France when the revolution of July 1830 broke forth, and he left France to seek his fortune in the United States.  He appears to have been very successful, though his literary taste caused him to relinquish his search after riches at an early period in his career.  In 1845 he married a person of fortune and purchased a property at Dinard, St. Malo, in Brittany, where he was enabled to pursue undisturbed the pursuits which he seems ever to have had a desire for.  The library he formed at his Chateau was of varied character, and included some of the choicest rarities of the fifteenth century.  As a collector of Rabelais he stood unrivalled.  The following anecdote relating to this gentleman is translated from "Recherches bibliographiques et critiques sur les editions originales des cinq livres du Roman satirique de Rabelais, par Jacq. Ch. Brunet.  Paris, 1852" :-

Mr. Copinger, at whose instigation I have undertaken these researches on the first editions of Rabelais, is one of our most distinguished bibliographers, who devotes himself chiefly to collecting the original editions of our Ancient Chronicles, Romances of Chivalry, and French Poets previous to the middle of the 16th century.  For him, as may be supposed, the fine typographical productions of Verard, Le Noir, and Treperel have powerful attractions.  Nevertheless he does not despise old French works of minor importance, particularly such as are extremely rare.  He duly appreciates the fortuitous discovery of a work entirely ignored or forgotten - a chance which has befallen him more than once.  Some years ago a discovery of this kind led to the following incident, which I have much pleasure in recording.

In or about the year of 1845, Mr. Copinger purchased a small 8vo vol., printed in Gothic type, dated 1535, a treatise on the origin of Turkish princes and the manners and customs of the Ottoman race.  But unfortunately the title page of this curious volume was missing, so that in order to ascertain the exact title of the work it would have been necessary to meet with a similar one, or at least to find the book described in some bibliographic review.  For the attainment of this object, vainly were all possible researches made in Paris and in London.  However, what he failed to procure in Europe he eventually obtained in America in this wise :- In 1848, Paris being in a state of tumult and daily menaced with fresh disturbances, many persons to whom revolutions were essentially repulsive, left the country, not caring to witness the labour throes of the infant republic.  Mr. Copinger had sought refuge in an adult republic.  Arrived at Philadelphia he paid a visit to Dr. Morris, so well known for his enlightened taste for literature and his great urbanity. Their conversation naturally merged into bibliographical topics.  The doctor showed his library, his fine collection of aldine editions, his select French authors, and finally submitted to Mr. Copinger's inspection a certain 8vo in Gothic type which, marvellous to relate, was a complete copy, though of another edition, of the identical work on Turkey, the object of such fruitless researches in France and in England.  One may imagine our traveller's glad surprise in perusing the title page of the precious volume which was lacking to his own.  Dr, Morris, informed of the singular discovery, and sympathising with the visitor's gratification, graciously made him an offer of the work, begging him to keep it in rememberance of their bibliographical conference.  Thus Mr. Copinger was enabled to bring from America a book printed in Paris more than three centuries before, but no longer to be found, and scarcely remembered in the country.

Mr. Copinger died in July, 1863, having bequeathed his property to his widow and his nephew, Maurice Charles Copinger.  He was much respected in his adopted country, and his loss was severely felt by the many friends whom his genial hospitality had drawn around him.  From among the many notices which appeared in reference to this gentleman at the time of his decease, the following is selected:-

Extrait du Journal L'Union Malonine & Dinannaise Journal
de St. Malo, St. Servan, Dinan & Dol.
No. 657.  Le 19 Juillet, 1863.

Nécrologie - M. Copinger.

Dinard vient de perdre un des hommes les plus dévoués à son extension, à sa prospérité, un des appréciateurs les plus éclairés de son importance, un des pionniers les capables et les plus persévérants de son avenir.

M. James Ehrhart Copinger est décéde lundi 13 Juillet ?gé 51 ans, dans la magnifique demeure qui'l avait fait élever sur le plateau granatique du "Bec de la Vallée" d'où l'œil embrasse les grands horizons de mer et tout le pays d'alentour.

Cette mort presque subite, dans la force de l'?ge et de l'intelligence à causé dans nos arrondissements une impression douleureuse.

C'est que M. Copinger était un homme be bien dans toute l'acceptation du mot, et se plaisait à répandre autour de lui ce parfum de bonnes œuvres qui suivit quand tout le reste s'efface.

Dans le cours de sa trop brêve carrière, de flatteuses distinctions, des fonctions supérieures, furent offertes à M. Copinger, et peut être les eut-il acceptées si la révolution de 1848 n'était venue l'arrêter dans la route qu'il semblait appelé àparcourir.

Son érudition, ses connaissances en économie politique, sans parler de celle qu'il possédait en Bibliophilie, l'avaient fait apprècier de bonne heure par les hommes les plus considérables de son temps.

Mais, à quoi bon énumerer les mérites qui le distinguaient, les grandes et nobles amitiés dont il se vit honoré?  Ne rappelons ici que son affabilité, sa droiture, sa modestie, sa charité surtout, cette mère des solides vertus, sa charité, dont les malheureux seuls, aver Dieu surent l'étendue, et disons qu'il inspirait au même degré l'estime et la sympathie.

Il aimait cette retraite qu'il s'était choisie sur les hauts sommets de Dinard; il aimait les habitans de cette ville naissante dont il fut l'un des créateurs, il y accueillait les étrangers avec une extrême bienveillance, trait distinctif de son caractère.

Aussi, mercredi la population toute entière se pressait à ses obsèques,où les villes de St. Malo et de St. Servan étaient également représentées par leurs plus notables habitans.

Le deuil était conduit par M. du Reposoir, ami intime de M. Copinger.  Les cordons du poêle étaient tenus par M. Pèart Préfet d'Ile-de-Vilaine, par M. Aubert, Maire de Dinard, par M. Odorici, conservateur de la Bibliothèque et du Musée de Dinan, et par M. Le Baron de Commailles.  Le cercueil, placé sur un Corbillard, était trainé par deux chevaux caparaçonnés de noir.

L'Eglise était tendue à l'intérieur de longs voiles funèbres, comme dans les jours de deuil public.

Puissent les témoignages de regrets et de reconnaissance donnés par trois populations autour de la tombe de M. James Copinger être un allègement à la douleur de son honorable veuve!

            (Signé) LJ.


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