The Bibliographers’ Uncommonly Handsome Contemporary Copy of a Giant Folio Describing the Stone Arch Bridges Perfected by the Father of Modern Bridge Building

DESCRIPTION DES PROJETS ET DE LA CONSTRUCTION DES PONTS DE NEUILLY, DE MANTES, D'ORLÉANS ET AUTRES, DU PROJET DU CANAL DE BOURGOGNE, POUR LA COMMUNICATION DES DEUX MERS PAR DIJON, ET DE CELUI DE LA CONDUITE DES EAUX DE L'YVETTE ET DE BIÈVRE À PARIS. [and] SUPPLÉMENT.

(Paris: de l'Imprimerie Royale; Didot & Jombert, 1782-83, 1789). First two volumes: 572 x 420 mm. (22 1/2 x 16 1/2"); Supplement: 595 x 435 mm. (23 1/2 x 17 1/8"). Three volumes. FIRST EDITIONS.

Pleasing contemporary polished mottled calf, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments decorated with fleurs-de-lys and a crown, red and green morocco labels, blue endpapers, all edges gilt. Supplement in original paste-paper boards (recased with modern endpapers), leaves untrimmed. With engraved frontispiece portrait, engraved vignettes on titles, and 78 SUPERB ENGRAVED PLATES (many folding or double-page), 67 in the main work and 11 in the supplement. Front pastedown with ex-libris of Bibliotheca Mechanica. Roberts & Trent "Bibliotheca Mechanica," p. 249 (this copy); Brunet IV, 515. Leather bindings with a little wear to extremities, including quite minor loss at head and tail of spines, other trivial signs of use; the insubstantial paste-paper binding with flaking along spine and a little uneven fading to boards, but a lucky survival, and the three bindings all attractive and entirely solid. First two volumes with negligible imperfections (mostly confined to text pages), a handful of leaves in each volume faintly toned, supplement volume (printed on less good paper) with a bit of browning and foxing (though still minor). In all, the defects of no significance, and clearly A VERY FINE COPY, THE PLATES ESPECIALLY, FRESH, CLEAN, AND BRIGHT.

With the rarely seen supplement, this is an uncommonly fine contemporary copy of the handsomely illustrated giant folio describing the planning and construction of the stone arch bridges perfected by Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, considered by many to be the father of modern bridge building. According to Britannica, Perronet (1708-94) discovered "that the horizontal thrust of a series of elliptical arches was passed along to the abutments at the ends of the bridge. Armed with this knowledge, he carried the stone arch bridge to its ultimate design form, with extremely flat arches that were supported during construction by timbering (falsework) and mounted on very slender piers, which widened the waterway for navigation and reduced scour from the current." His innovations substantially reduced the size and cost of the bridge's piers and foundations, in addition to producing some of the most aesthetically pleasing bridges to be constructed, among them his Pont de la Concorde in Paris and the Pont de Neuilly, described by Britannica as "the most graceful stone bridge ever built." Both are described and beautifully illustrated in what Brunet describes as our "highly esteemed and well-executed work," along with his bridges at Orléans, Mantes, and his most daring construction, the Pont-Sainte-Maxence, with its rise-to-span ratio of 1:11 (contrasted with traditional 1:5). Perronet served as the first director of the École des Ponts et Chaussées (still the premier French engineering school), and as First Engineer to King Louis XV. Apart from the importance of their content, these immense volumes are elegantly bound, beautifully printed, and richly illustrated, using very high-quality materials and very pleasing designs. The French have always been good at both book making and engineering.
(Lhi21044)

Price: $17,500.00