Representing the Very Best in 18th Century French Book Arts: (Extremely) Large Paper Copy, First State Plates, Elegant Binding by Bozerian


(Paris: Chez l'Auteur, V[eu]ve Hérissant et Barrois, l'aîne, [1786-93]). 485 x 340 mm. (19 x 13 1/2"). Three volumes. First Edition with these Illustrations.

ELEGANT RED STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO BY BOZERIAN (signed in gilt on front free endpaper), covers framed by gilt fillets, double raised bands separated by a strip of black morocco tooled with gilt chain, spine gilt in compartments with a rose or a musical instrument at center, turn-ins with gilt arches roll (Culot 18), green endpapers, all edges gilt. 147 FINE ILLUSTRATIONS AFTER DESIGNS BY JEAN-JACQUES-FRANÇOIS LE BARBIER: three engraved title pages, four vignettes, 66 tailpieces, and 74 leaves of plates (including frontispiece portrait of Gessner) engraved by Alix, Baquoy, Dambrun, de Longueil, et al., ALL IN FIRST STATE, those in volumes I and III with original tissue guards. A Large Paper Copy. Cohen-de Ricci 433; Ray 39. For the binding: Culot, "Jean Claude Bozerian," roulette #18. Just a hint of rubbing to upper joint of first volume, small indent to front cover of volume II, occasional, mostly marginal mild foxing (more frequent in volume II), but QUITE A FINE SET, clean and fresh internally, with beautiful impressions of the engravings and enormous margins, in lustrous bindings with few signs of wear.

This is a sumptuous set approaching 20 inches tall that epitomizes the best in 18th century French book arts: a Large Paper Copy of a book that, in Ray's opinion, "represents one of the happiest of all collaborations between artist and writer"--all of this in a graceful binding by the preeminent Paris atelier of the day. Gessner (1730-88) was a painter and poet from Zurich, who hoped to renew the ancient genre of the eclogue. In his imagined neoclassical world, all the shepherdesses are beautiful, virtuous, and sensitive, and the shepherds are always honest and respectful. This struck a chord with illustrator Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier (1738-1826), who wrote in the dedication, "the charm of Gessner's poems filled my imagination, and transported it to the happy centuries of the world's innocence." It also inspired him to collaborate with Gessner on this present work. Le Barbier (1738-1826) was one of the first great French neoclassical illustrators, and this work is both an important early success in that style and, in Ray's words, the "most sustained and accomplished series of illustrations" by the artist. Most of Le Barbier's designs for this work are set in the classical world--the exception being "Le Mort d'Abel," based on the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. There are nymphs, fauns, and other fantastical creatures mingling with humans in bucolic settings. While Le Barbier illustrates many love scenes, they are romantic and wistful rather than passionate; he was a master of nudes, but those depicted here seem innocent rather than erotic. As Ray says, "Le Barbier's emphasis is on simplicity and naturalness. We are in a different world from the witty gallantry and sophisticated sentiment of the rococo pastoral illustrations." The engravings are characterized by the clarifying use of softly radiant light and by a restrained animation, and the book as a whole is "a work of harmonious distinction which admirably realizes the ideals of its author and illustrator." (Ray) The elegant binding by Bozerian is notable for its refinement, and it continues the motif of noble simplicity set by author and illustrator. Jean-Claude Bozerian (1762-1840) was the elder of the Bozerian brothers (François is referred to as "le jeune") and was active in Paris from 1795 to about 1810. He began his career in Lyon as an apprentice bookseller, printer, and bookbinder, eventually deciding to focus on the latter craft. Marriage to the widow of binder Pierre Boulier allowed him to establish a binding workshop in Paris, where he was joined by his brother. His bindings were soon much in demand by French bibliophiles, who appreciated their superior materials, tasteful design, and flawless execution. A rich man by age 50, he decided to retire and enjoy his leisure, turning his business over to his nephew Lefebvre. Gessner's "Oeuvres" typically appears in quarto; Large Paper Copies like this one are very rare, especially with all of the plates in first state (which according to Cohen-de Ricci is recognizable by the lack of numbering to the plates and their appearance on bluish paper). It would seem next to impossible to imagine a book with margins as wide as are seen here.

Price: $13,000.00