Merian's Substantial Work on French Topography, With 326 Fine Engravings Exuding Luminous Tranquility


(Frankfurt: C. Merian, 1655-61). 305 x 222 mm. (12 x 8 3/4"). 13 parts in three volumes (one part with first few leaves bound out of order). Lacking the index of plates in part IX (covering the final five parts) and in part V. FIRST EDITIONS OF ALL PARTS.

Modern half vellum over colored paper boards, flat spines titled in black. Woodcut decorative initials, headpieces, tailpieces, nine engraved title pages (the first part with an engraved title from the first Latin edition), and WITH A TOTAL OF 326 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES (CONTAINING, IN ALL, 413 ILLUSTRATIONS), THE MAJORITY BEING CITY VIEWS, but including also maps and plans, fortifications, chateaux and other buildings, landmarks, and so on), MORE THAN 200 OF THE PLATES BEING TWO-PAGE VIEWS, AND EIGHT OF THEM BEING FOLDING PANORAMAS, the plates all neatly mounted on stubs (lacking five plates showing four plans and three scenes that are called for, but with one additional plate not called for) and WITH SEVEN ADDITIONAL VERY FINE FOLDING PLATES, NOT CALLED FOR, SHOWING VIEWS OF FOUNTAINEBLEAU, these extra engravings by J. Dankerts. Front pastedowns with bookplate of the Museum Alexandrinum, printed title pages of first and third volumes with ownership signature ("F. Weppen") dated 1689 and 1690. Stephan 83, 85-87, 91-94, 99-103; Schuchhard 71-83; Wüthrich 69, 71, 73, 75. Volumes swollen at spines because of the use of stubs for mounting the plates, otherwise the utilitarian bindings unworn and inoffensive. Perhaps a dozen plates with old neat repairs or reinforcing on verso at bottom or along folds, a few text leaves with neat marginal repairs without loss (two made with unmatching paper), one leaf with slight damage to the text from adhesion (probably prior to being printed), leaves in latter half of the third volume a little less bright than elsewhere, other minor defects, but A NEARLY FINE COPY INTERNALLY, THE TEXT AND PLATES VERY CLEAN AND FRESH, AND WITH ESPECIALLY RICH IMPRESSIONS OF THE ENGRAVINGS.

Written, like a number of Merian books, by the German school official and miscellaneous author Zeiller (1589-1661), this beautifully illustrated publication is the 17th and largest of the splendid and justly celebrated "Topographia" series of books initiated by Merian (1593-1650), the famous Swiss engraver who became head of one of the prominent Frankfurt publishing houses of the period. The series, continued by Merian's heirs to a grand total of some 30 folio volumes issued between 1642-88, contains the largest number of engraved views of towns, villages, and castles ever assembled. It is of primary importance for the knowledge of Central European topography of the baroque era, and it is of great interest because of the very considerable artistic value of its engravings. As with all of the Merian topographical works, this one is filled with views of many walled cities and towns that appear to be remarkable in the fidelity of their historical detail, impressive in the crystalline vividness of their engraved line, and emotionally pleasing in the luminous tranquility they project. In the present copy, these features seem to be heightened, both because there are considerably more images here than in the typical "Topographia" item and because of the richness of the engraved impressions. The plates are executed with considerable skill and charm, with the artist including details of costume and touches of daily life whenever scale permits. In this item, even the plates with less dramatic subject matter, showing towns, villages, bastions, and other edifices, are pleasing in their quiet radiance, and the large folding engravings of Paris (the one showing Merian with his drawing book) and of Rouen are surely among the very best and most beautiful city views of the 17th century. The added plates of Foutainbleau are clearly by a different artist, but are extremely attractive as well, featuring animated scenes with very considerable detail in a more pronounced baroque style than the engravings by Merian.

Price: $14,500.00