(Londra [i.e., Paris]: 1757). 222 x 140 mm. (8 3/4 x 5 1/2"). Five volumes. Edited by Filippo di Matteo Villani. First Edition with these Illustrations.
EXCELLENT CONTEMPORARY RED STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, covers with gilt fillet border, flat spines divided into six panels by plain gilt rules, three panels with small floral tool at center, two with titling, and one with a rampant lion and saltire from the Longe family crest, gilt-ruled turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Engraved title in each volume, many engraved vignette head- and tailpieces, and 111 VERY FINE ENGRAVED PLATES (including frontispiece portrait in first volume), primarily AFTER DRAWINGS BY GRAVELOT, but also after EISEN, BOUCHER, and COCHIN. Tissue guards (perhaps original) for all engraved matter. A Large Paper Copy printed on Papier de Hollande. Front pastedowns with engraved armorial bookplate of Francis Longe, Spixworth Park, Norfolk; final volume with ink monogram "ME" on last page. Two instances of ink marginalia noting reversed order of plates. Cohen-de Ricci 158 ("un des livres illustrés de plus réussis de tout le XVIIIe siècle"); Ray 15; Brunet I, 1003. Boards just a shade brighter than the spines, negligible rubbing to joints and extremities, covers with a couple of small dark spots, occasional minor smudges to the (extremely wide) margins, other trivial imperfections, but A VERY FINE CONTEMPORARY COPY--unusually clean, fresh, and bright inside and out.
This is a very special Large Paper Copy in period morocco of one of the most famous and charming illustrated books of the 18th century, and it may be the supreme example of refined libertine illustration of the period. Owen Holloway calls this one of the four masterpieces of book illustration at the end of the Rococo period. And Ray is expansive in his praise, calling the work simply "one of the masterpieces of the illustrated book." Although he had as collaborators on this work some of the outstanding French artists of the 18th century, Gravelot (born Hubert-François-Bourguignon, 1699-1773) was chiefly responsible for its production, designing 89 of its 222 plates and all 97 of its immensely delightful tailpieces. In this, the most ambitious undertaking of his career, Gravelot gave Boccaccio's narrative the settings and costumes of 18th century France, and this transposition "made it possible for him to exercise his special talent for depicting the social world around him. For the most part, his figures are young, the women graceful and pretty, the men lithe and handsome . . . . All levels of life are presented, from the peasant in his hovel to the king in his palace. Every variety of interior is there, from boudoirs and bedrooms to dining rooms and salons. Animated street scenes alternate with glimpses of gardens and farms, forests and river banks. The human condition has rarely been so attractively displayed. Yet this is only the beginning . . . . Gravelot's tailpieces complete what his plates have begun. They are peopled by amusing children, who . . . usually play their parts in interpreting Boccaccio's text." (Ray) Our handsome set was bound for Francis Longe (1748-1812), a gentleman who served as sheriff of Norfolk and whose library warrants mention in Quaritch's "Dictionary of Book Collectors." The "Catalogue of British and American Book Plates" held by the British Museum lists two different bookplates for Longe (3385 and 3386). (ST12596)
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PJP Catalog: 75.140