A Very Well-Preserved, Finely Bound Copy with First Impressions of the Plates


(Amsterdam: R. & J. Wetstein & G. Smith, 1732). 480 x 308 mm. (19 x 12"). 5 p.l., 247, [1] (blank) pp.; 1 p.l., 249-524 pp., [2] leaves. Two volumes bound in one. Translated by Abbé Banier. First Edition of this Translation.

IMPRESSIVE CONTEMPORARY CRIMSON MOROCCO, GILT, covers bordered by thick and thin rules, daisy cornerpieces, seal of The Society of Writers to the Signet at center, raised bands, spine compartments with central floral spray surrounded by small tools, volute cornerpieces, gilt lettering, turn-ins with floral gilt roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Two title pages with engraved vignette, and 131 SUPERB ENGRAVINGS, consisting of a frontispiece by Picart, three plates with two engravings each, and 124 large images in the text after Picart and others engraved by Bouche, Folkema, et al. Parallel text in French and Latin. Front pastedown with old library label. Cohen-de Ricci 768; Fürstenberg 71. Corners gently bumped, three small abrasions to lower cover, occasional mild browning, additional trivial imperfections (small splash on one page, isolated marginal foxing), otherwise quite a fine copy--clean and fresh internally with rich impressions of the engravings, in a very handsome and well-preserved unsophisticated binding.

This is an especially appealing copy of a vast and famous illustrated book of the 18th century. According to Fürstenberg, "the magnificent Amsterdam Ovid edition of 1732" establishes Picart as the artist who marks the transition "from the forerunners of copperplate illustration to the masters." Ray considered Picart "the outstanding professional illustrator of the first third of the eighteenth century," and cites "Metamorphoses" as one of the artist's chief and most desirable works, showcasing his "stately designs, replete with allegorical and mythological trappings." Bernard Picart (1673-1733) was born in Paris, where he learned engraving from his father, Etienne, and from Sébastian Le Clerc. Ray tells us that "he early acquired a reputation both as an artist and engraver." Picart moved to the busy publishing city of Amsterdam sometime before 1712, and established himself as both as printseller and as an illustrator/engraver; he also started a school for engravers ca. 1718, where he could train the artists for his atelier. Picart designed and engraved an impressive body of illustrations for Dutch printers at a time when, according to Ray, "designs for the finest illustrated books were typically drawn by leading painters. He worked for the most part in the fading baroque tradition, but there are elements in his immense production which herald the new age [of Rococo design]." The famous tales of transformation making up the text here provide a rich source of inspiration to our transformational artist, who often chooses to depict his subjects mid-transition, as they mutate from nymph to laurel tree or from hunter to stag. Dutch and English editions of this work were issued the same year, but our French edition has the distinction of containing the first impressions of the plates. The present copy was once owned by--and bound for--the Society of Writers to His Majesty's Signet, an organization with deep roots in Scottish history. Originally, the Signet was the private seal of the early Scottish Kings, and the Writers to the Signet were those authorized to supervise its use and, later, to act as clerks to the Courts. The earliest recorded use of the Signet was in 1369, and Writers to the Signet were included as members of the College of Justice when it was established in 1532 (though the Society did not take definite shape until 1594, when the King's Secretary, a Keeper of the Signet, granted Commissions to a Deputy Keeper and 18 other writers). The Society still exists as a professional association of Scottish solicitors, devoted to promoting legal knowledge, high professional standards, and equality and diversity in the profession.

Price: $12,500.00