Eisen's Best Work, Printed from Original Plates,
And in Handsomely Elaborate Gilt Bindings
LA FONTAINE, JEAN DE.
TALES AND NOVELS IN VERSE OF J. DE LA FONTAINE.(Paris: J. Lemonnyer; New York: E. F. Bonaventure, 1883). 235 x 168 mm (9 1/4 x 6 5/8"). Two volumes.. Of an edition of 400 numbered copies, ONE OF 125 COPIES on vélin mécanique, signed by the American publisher (this being copy #299).
FINE DARK BROWN MOROCCO, VERY ATTRACTIVELY GILT, BY TOUT for Estes & Lauriat (stamp-signed on front turn-ins and verso of front free endleaves), covers with scalloped corner decoration composed of massed small floral tools, raised bands, spines densely and elegantly gilt in compartments with a stippled ground and with small floral tools radiating from a central point, turn-ins with elongated gilt foliate decorations at corners, endleaves of patterned silk in maroon and gold, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. In buckram covered slipcases with matching morocco lips. Title vignette, frontispiece portraits of La Fontaine and the illustrator, and 83 FINE FULL-PAGE ENGRAVINGS BY CHARLES EISEN PRINTED FROM THE ORIGINAL COPPERPLATES, which Eisen made for the edition commissioned by the Fermiers Généraux in 1762. Promotional brochure for this edition laid in at rear of first volume. Titles in black and red. Ray 26; Cohen-de Ricci 558 (both citing the 1762 edition with these plates). A BEAUTIFULLY BOUND COPY IN EXTREMELY FINE CONDITION, the bindings especially lustrous, and the set with only the most trivial of imperfections.
This is a well-executed reprint in English of one of the 18th century's most famous illustrated books. The substantial group of plates here, in Ray's words, is "the liveliest and the most adroit that [Eisen] ever drew. Thoroughly at home with the varied action of these lusty stories--their love passages, their intrigues, their practical jokes--he is also expert in choosing the moment in each that will best serve his purpose as an illustrator." Despite the fact that the original copperplates were more than a century old when our set was printed, the impressions of the plates here are strong and pleasing. The lavishly decorated bindings by one of the period's most accomplished workshops constitute a suitable complement to the celebrated engravings. As attested to here, the Tout bindery turned out consistently fine work, especially notable for its elaborate gilt tooling. (ST11937b)