A Remarkably Fine Copy with Immense Plates Featuring Parisian Gardens and their Modernization


(Paris: J. Rothschild, 1867-73). 625 x 450 mm. (24 5/8 x 17 3/4"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.

SPLENDID PUBLISHER’S RED MOROCCO, ELABORATELY GILT AND ONLAID, covers with border formed by multiple gilt rules connected to scrolling cornerpieces, large sunken central panel with ornate gilt frame of repeating fleurs-de-lys and arabesques arising from a Greek key roll and featuring scalloped cornerpieces, upper covers with very large centerpiece composed of the arms of the City of Paris onlaid in blue and orange silk and incorporating a silver sailing vessel, the arms supported on a large garland of gilt leaves, surmounted by a crown composed of castle elements, and with gilt titling above and below; raised bands, spines gilt in compartments continuing the cover motifs, densely gilt turn-ins, leather hinges, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Text volume with 460 wood engravings in the text, PLATE VOLUME WITH 127 PLATES: a copper-engraved title page on China paper, three double-page steel-engraved plans (of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne, and the Bois de Vincennes), 74 steel-engraved plates of plans and designs, 27 views engraved on wood and printed on China paper, and 22 beautiful chromolithographs of ornamental plants used in the gardens (not 23 as stated in the list of plates, one of those so designated being a steel engraving). Two corners a little bumped, otherwise the massive bindings (astonishingly) with almost no signs of wear. Occasional insignificant foxing or browning to edges, one illustration with a small yellow (wax?) stain, two plates with a bit of dust soiling to head edge, fore edge of one plate with short chip—but all of these defects minor, and, in sum, A REMARKABLY FINE COPY of a most impressive work, the plates clean and bright, and the colors of the chromolithographs especially rich.

Paris is justly renowned for its beautiful gardens, parks, and public spaces, and in this magnificent work, we can see the incredible amount of planning and attention to detail that went into the creation of all this beauty. An engineer in the Corps of Bridges and Roads, Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand (1817-91) participated in the renovation of the city of Paris that took place during the reign of Napoleon III under the direction of the famed Baron Haussmann. Among other projects, he was primarily responsible for the design of the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Gardens of Champs-Élysées, Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Square des Batignolles, and Jardin des Plantes du Mans. In our text volume, Alphand begins by discussing different types of gardens—Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian, Italian—before focusing on the two types of gardens that will be used in Paris: "irregular" (or English-style) gardens and "regular" (or French-style) gardens. The former, which are more casual and are designed to look like a "natural" landscape, can be seen in the plans for the Bois de Boulogne and Vincennes. The very formal, symmetrical French gardens, with their elaborately clipped hedges and trees in neat rows, are represented by the Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau, and Gardens of the Champs-Élysées. The plantings in these parks and gardens benefited greatly from Alphand's interest in botany: the book includes an exhaustive list of the 2,320 types of plants employed, giving their region of origin, common names, characteristics, and requirements for growth. Some of the more exotic examples are pictured in the brightly colored chromolithographs. The charming wood engravings in the text volume offer a vision of the finished spaces, with ladies, gentlemen, and playful children enjoying the pleasures of nature in the city. In the plate volume, we see more of the work that went into the planning and construction, from landscaping lay-outs to designs of buildings and even to the patterns of iron fences, stone balustrades, street lamps, and the iron grills that encircle the base of the trees. It is a fascinating look at the ongoing modernizing development and construction of what many consider the most beautiful city in the world. The present copy was once owned by a former president of France, Jules Grévy (1807-91).