(Paris: [Clousier Imprimeur], 1781-86). 518 x 332 mm. (20 3/8 x 13 1/8"). Four volumes bound in five. FIRST EDITION.
IMPOSING CONTEMPORARY RED MOROCCO, GILT, BY DEROME LE JEUNE (his binder's ticket on half title of volume I), covers with French fillet borders, raised bands, spine compartments outlined with double gilt rules and drawer-handle tools, and filled with a lattice of pleated ribbons, gilt lettering, turn-ins with decorative gilt roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (a few tiny, discreet repairs). With engraved dedication leaf, and a total of 304 ENGRAVED PLATES (including the rare phallus plate in volume II) after Fragonard, Desprez, and others, almost all before letters, including nine double page and/or folded maps (some with colored outlines), as called for by Cohen-de Ricci, and with many head- and tailpieces, these often quite large and elaborate, including 25 in volume II printed in bistre and black. Front pastedowns with an engraved armorial bookplate, and ex-libris of Irwin Laughlin. Blackmer 1473; Cohen-de Ricci, pp. 928-30 ("Beautiful work richly decorated with engravings"); Ray, "French" 34; Cicognara 2708; Brunet V, 55-56 ("One of the first beautiful works of this kind to have appeared in France"). A bit of wear to corners and extremities, covers with some unimportant scratches and abrasions, but the joints essentially unworn, and the elegant beauty of the bindings not materially diminished by their imperfections. Contents with light scattered foxing (mostly affecting margins, and never severe), occasional small spots or stains, other insignificant defects (a few plates slightly browned, a couple expert marginal repairs, etc.), but on the whole a very fine set with stately margins and lovely impressions of the plates. A POWERFULLY ATTRACTIVE ITEM.
This is a tall, exceedingly handsome copy of one of the most famous illustrated travel books of the 18th century, with early impressions of the plates by some of the best artists and engravers of the period, in a binding by the leading Parisian workshop. Critics and bibliographers vie with one another in their lavish praise for this work, described by Ray as "one of the most ambitious and successful of travel books," and by Blackmer as "one of the monuments of 18th-century book production." According to Cicognara, it is "rightly held in great esteem for its beautiful execution, and for the plates engraved with taste and diligence." Ray was completely enchanted: "The appeal of late 18th century Italy is conveyed in all its romantic charm. Wild and rugged scenery is displayed. The passion of the age for archaeological discovery is conveyed in many plates of excavations which are enlivened by a variety of foreground figures . . . When there were events of interest in the localities being visited, these too were depicted . . . the abundant decorations are of a uniformly high order." He considered the Abbé de Saint-Non, "one of the most engaging figures in the chronicle of the French illustrated book," a sweet, generous man whose career was devoted to living up to his motto: "What flowers are to our gardens, the arts are to life." We are fortunate that our copy was not owned by one of the "scrupulous possessors" who, Cicognara lamented, tore out the scandalous "phallus" plate from volume II. Cohen-de Ricci records two copies like ours, with plates before letters and bound in red morocco by Derome le jeune, one owned by the Musée Dutuit, and the other by Baron Roger Portalis, who sold it to Richard Lion. There were no fewer than 18 members of the Derome family who made their livings as binders in Paris from the middle of the 17th century until the first quarter of the 19th, but by far the most distinguished family member was Nicolas-Denis, called "le jeune" (1731-88). Known for the gracefulness of his bindings, and for being capable of "amazing delicacy" (in Hobson's words), Derome le jeune was, simply, the leading binder of the day, and his work was much in demand. Because he refused to turn away customers, Derome was forced to hire a number of assistants, whose work he could not always supervise closely. However, Thoinan says that the binder's best work is indicated by the presence of his ticket, as here. Our set once graced the shelves in the Meridian House library of American diplomat Irwin Laughlin (1871-1941), who served the U.S. State Department for 30 years, and acted as U.S. ambassador to Greece and Spain. These volumes cater to three of his great interests: books, travel, and 18th century French drawings. (Lhi21145)
Add to Cart Price: $95,000.00
PJP Catalog: Travel.030