The Hoe Copy of a 16th Century Edition of Reynard, with More than 50 Charming Woodcuts


(Frankfurt: Nicolas Bassei, 1595). 145 x 80 mm. (5 3/4 x 3 1/8"). 10 p.l., 465, [17] pp. (lacking final blank). Fifth Edition of the first Latin translation of Reynard the Fox.

FINE LATE 19TH CENTURY BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO, GILT, BY DAVID AND DOMONT (stamp-signed on turn-ins), covers with French fillet border, leafy sprays emanating from corners, raised bands, spine compartments with crossed olive branches at center, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With 57 woodcuts in text by Jost Amman and Virgil Solis. Front pastedown with morocco bookplate of Robert Hoe and with his initials stamped in gilt. Adams S-705; Brunet IV, 1222; Graesse VI, 82. One leaf with a renewed corner, affecting the ends of two lines of text, tightly bound, with consequent small gutter margin, leaves a shade less than bright, one page with patch of light text (still legible), otherwise an excellent copy, clean and fresh internally, in a lustrous, unworn binding.

This is the handsomely bound Hoe copy of the humanist Latin version of the adventures of Reynard the Fox, translated from high German by poet Hartmann Schopper (1542-after 1595) and illustrated with charming woodcuts by Jost Amman and Virgil Solis. Reynard the Fox is the hero of a number of popular fables or "bestiaries," first put into a collected form entitled the "Roman de Renart" in 13th century France. Reynard and his animal friends (typically including, among others, a wolf, lion, cat, cock, and rook) mimic human behavior with all its follies, supplying obvious pleasurable edification to the reader. In a typical tale, the fox represents the man who victimizes others and who is brought to judgment, and yet escapes punishment through the use of his cunning. Solis (1514-62) was a German book illustrator and artist whose own hand and whose workshop of apprentices produced several hundred signed drawings, copper engravings, woodcuts, illuminations, and paintings. Though the quality of the image always varies with the hand involved, Solis' work is highly regarded in general, especially in its ability to take images from a wide variety of sources (including from nature) and to combine them into a graceful whole. The Swiss artist Amman (1539-91), who spent much of his life in Nuremberg, produced a great many spirited wood engravings characterized by minute and accurate details of costume and scenery. The binding is a joint effort between Parisian binder Bernard David, who trained with Gruel, and gilder Jules Domont (1847-1931), who learned his craft from Koehler and Marius Michel père before setting up as an independent gilder. According to Flety, all the late 19th century binders who did not have a "doreur" in their own atelier turned to Domont, whose expertise was widely admired. The lovely binding and fine condition of this volume are typical of works from the collection of Robert Hoe (1839-1911), founding member and first president of the Grolier Club. According to Beverly Chew, Hoe's library was "the finest [America] has ever contained." He acquired illuminated manuscripts, early printing (he owned a Gutenberg Bible on paper and one on vellum), fine bindings, French and English literature, and Americana, and when his library was sold in 1911-12, it fetched nearly $2 million, a record that held until the Streeter sale more than 50 years later.