(BIBLICAL HISTORY - SAMSON). VERDIER, FRANÇOIS.
HISTOIRE DES ACTIONS EXTRAORDINAIRES DE SAMSON.(Paris: Sold by Benoist Audran and by Charles Simonneau, 1698). 248 x 337 mm (9 3/4 x 13 1/4"). FIRST EDITION.
Not at all displeasing 19th century continental half vellum over marbled paper boards, flat spine gilt in a lattice and fleuron pattern, red morocco vertical title label (hinges expertly reinforced with paper tape). ENGRAVED THROUGHOUT: WITH A TOTAL OF 40 FINE COPPER PLATES, including an engraved dedication page, colophon, and 38 engravings illustrating the life of Samson, the plates after Verdier, with four engraved by him and the rest by Audran, de Poilly, Simonneau, and others. Explanatory text in French and Latin captions; recto of front free endpaper with (probably 19th century) calligraphic ink ownership inscription of L. Schellbach Junior. Tiny scuffs and abrasions to title label (with minimal loss of leather and gilt), a few marks and three small gouges to lower paper cover, edges a bit worn, but the binding completely solid and with nothing approaching a serious problem. Dedication plate with overall faint soiling and with four small ink splatters, two plates with short closed tears in bottom margin (last three plates with one-inch open tear to lower inside corner), intermittent minor foxing or soiling, but generally quite an excellent copy internally, the leaves much cleaner and showing fewer signs of use than would be expected with an appealing picture book like this.
This is a very rare complete set of Verdier's depictions of events from the life of Samson, beginning with an angel's annunciation to his mother that she will bear a son who is "the glory of Israel and the terror of the Philistines." The work goes on to relate his youthful feats of strength, including the slaying of a lion with his bare hands; his stormy marriage to a Philistine woman; and his battles against the Philistines, during which he was given supernatural strength by God. It ends with his seduction and shearing at the hands of Delilah, and the subsequent destruction of the Philistine palace. Apart from the very last episode in his life, Samson was not a frequent subject for artists, which makes these attractive and uncommon engravings all the more desirable. Verdier's drawing are full of life and action, with beautifully rendered bodies, detailed backgounds, and artful use of light and shadow. And the plates are done on thick, soft paper, which gives the compositions an appropriately antique texture. The son of a clockmaker to the French court, Verdier (1651-1730) studied painting under the great Charles Le Brun (1619-90) and won first prize for drawing at the Académie Royale in 1668. He was awarded a number of official commissions in Paris, and assisted with Le Brun's works for Versailles and the Trianon. In 1678, he was elected to the Académie, and he later acquired the title of "Painter in ordinary to the King." This is a genuinely rare book both in institutional collections and in the marketplace: OCLC lists only seven copies of this work, some of them incomplete, and since 1975, ABPC records only one complete copy at auction (and one, apparently later, incomplete group of the plates). (ST11490)