(Parigi [Paris]: G. C. Molini, 1783). 177 x 95 mm. (7 x 3 3/4"). Four volumes.
ELEGANT CONTEMPORARY BLACK MOROCCO, VERY HANDSOMELY GILT, BY DEROME LE JEUNE (with his ticket, "Relié par / DEROME le jeune, / rue St. Jâques audessus / de St. Benoist," on verso of front flyleaf), covers framed with palmette, pentaglyph-and-metope, and lozenge-and-bead rolls, smooth spines in compartments with saltire and lozenge of gilt dots, calligraphic flourish centerpiece, gilt titling, turn-ins with decorative gilt rolls, pink watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt. IN THE ORIGINAL GILT-TRIMMED GREEN MOROCCO SLIPCASES (spines sunned to light brown) lined with pink silk. With engraved frontispiece and illustrated title page in volume I. PRINTED ON VELLUM. Verso of front flyleaf in each volume with ink owner signature, "A. G. September 10th 1797" (see below). Brunet V, 667; Graesse VI (IIème), 34. A SPLENDID SET, with only the most trivial imperfections.
This is a superb bibliophile's copy of Tasso's heroic poem, beautifully printed on creamy vellum, in bindings by Derome le jeune that have been preserved in their original cases for more than 200 years. In his "Jerusalem Delivered," Tasso (1544-95) intended to produce a work that would ennoble the Italian epic, but the poem inclined toward romance and became, in most critic's eyes, an early example of poetic sentiment. But as Britannica observes, "This sentiment, refined, noble, natural, steeped in melancholy, exquisitely graceful, pathetically touching, breathes throughout the episodes of the 'Gerusalemme,' finds metrical expression in the languishing cadence of its mellifluous verse, and sustains the ideal life of those seductive heroines whose names were familiar as household words to all Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries." Unfortunately, the work, in manuscript, was condemned by contemporary critics on both religious and literary grounds, and the sensitive and conscientious author suffered a nervous breakdown, was later visited by a violent insanity, and was confined for seven years. When he emerged from confinement, he discovered that his masterpiece had been published and that he was now famous. He was to have received the laurel crown with which Petrarch alone had been honored, but he died just before the presentation. It is possible that the present vellum copy is unique. Brunet and Graesse record a single copy on vellum in four volumes, bound in morocco, which may be ours. Apart from the present copy, ABPC and RBH together record two 1783 vellum copies, but these are in duodecimo and 24mo. 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 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, as here, by the presence of his ticket. Our handsome binding compares favorably to other work from this period of his career in the Schiff catalogue. The inscription on the flyleaves is most probably that of Lady Anne Grenville (née Pitt, 1772-1864), wife of William Wyndham Grenville (1759-1834), who was at the time of writing Britain's Foreign Secretary, negotiating for peace with France. He was to become Prime Minister from 1806 to 1807. The present item is a wonderful combination of a major literary work from the 16th century, printed in the most elegant and luxurious way possible, bound by an outstanding binder at work two centuries later, and with the whole enterprise secreted and protected in its original slipcases. (ST14789)
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PJP Catalog: CA20BF.080