(Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1752). 715 x 505 mm. (28 x 20"). 2 p.l., 18 pp. FIRST EDITION.
SUPERB OLIVE GREEN MOROCCO, ELEGANTLY GILT À LA ROCAILLE BY PADELOUP (his ticket at foot of title page), covers with elaborate gilt frame combining dramatic cresting sides with ornate side- and cornerpieces, rebacked preserving original backstrip, raised bands, spine compartments with central floral spray featuring a thistle, volute frame accented with shells, red morocco label, turn-ins with undulating gilt floral roll featuring pomegranates and daffodils, pink watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt. WITH 55 COPPER-ENGRAVINGS AFTER CHARLES LE BRUN on 52 plates, 23 of these double-page, all but one of THE ILLUSTRATIONS IN OUTSTANDING COLOR applied by a later, studied hand. Without the portraits of Le Brun and Massé added to some copies. Text within decorative frames. Cohen-de Ricci 609; Brunet III, 910. Boards a bit faded, binding with slight wear, folio b (text) with one-inch repair to head edge, about a dozen plates faintly browned (colors unaffected), occasional mild thumbing, but still A FINE COPY OF AN IMPOSING BOOK, clean and fresh internally with generous margins and rich coloring.
This is an especially tall copy of a sumptuous work that epitomizes the extravagant aesthetic of the Sun King. The plates here depict the beautiful paintings created by the great French artist Charles Le Brun (1619-90) to adorn the Palace of Versailles; Louis XIV was so thrilled with this splendid interior decor that he ordered a set of engravings documenting the paintings so he could present it to princes and other dignitaries as a mark of his particular favor. Le Brun had spent the last 10 years of his life decorating the walls of the great galleries of Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors, with paintings that showed the most glorious events in the history of Louis XIV's reign between the years 1661 and 1678. Jean-Baptiste Massé (1687-1767) spent another eight years perched on scaffolds drawing these paintings for this title, which Cohen-de Ricci deems "a magnificent work that cost Massé much time and effort." The engraving of these drawings--by Aubert, Audran, Duflos, Cochin fils, and others--took another 20(!) years because everything had to be mirror-engraved to make the printed scenes appear exactly as they do in the paintings. The book was then printed by the Imprimerie du Roy, which Ray says "set new standards for bookmaking in France. Its productions perfectly embody . . . the style Louis XIV." The engravings here have been expertly and sensitively colored by a later hand, bringing the full vibrancy of Le Brun's frescoes to the plates. Our copy was bound by Antoine-Michel Padeloup (1685-1758), the most outstanding artisan of that famous family of binders. Antoine, the founder of the dynasty, was doing work in the middle of the 17th century and was followed by sons Philippe and Michel, both of whom became master binders in 1686. But it was Michel's son, Antoine-Michel (1685-1758) called "le jeune," who was the most celebrated member of the family. In 1733, after a period as binder to the King of Portugal, he became binder to Louis XV; his ticket here identifies him as "Relieur du Roy." His work was much sought-after by bibliophiles of the day, and always displays a distinctive elegance. The present copy is at least 50 mm. taller than any recorded in RBH. (Lhi21022)