With 144 Fine Engraved Plates, a Large Paper Copy of a Large-Format Set in Elegant Bindings


(Paris: P. Didot l'aîné for F. Gay and C. Guestard, 1806[-20]). 310 x 225 mm. (12 1/8 x 9"). Four volumes. Translated and with notes and analysis by M. G. T. Villenave. A Large Paper Copy.

VERY FINE RED STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT, BY PURGOLD-HERING (stamp-signed in gilt at foot of spine), covers with border of three gilt rules, frame in the Romantic style with multiple gilt rules and elaborate cornerpieces, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with intricate tooling, turn-ins with decorative gilt and blind rolls, tan endpapers, leather hinges, all edges gilt. WITH 144 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES after Moreau, Le Barbier, Monsiau, and others, as called for. Original tissue guards. Text in French and Latin on facing pages. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate of Jacques Laffitte. Ray 96; Cohen-de Ricci 773-4. For the binding: Béraldi I, 41; Culot, pp. 742-44; Flety, p. 148. ◆Spines slightly and uniformly sunned, extremities with a hint of rubbing, boards just a little freckled, intermittent minor foxing (only rarely touching engravings), other trivial imperfections, but an extremely pleasing copy, clean and fresh with generous margins, the plates bright and richly impressed, and the elegant bindings sound and pleasing, with negligible signs of use.

With illustrations by three Rococo masters, handsome press work by the leading French printer of the day, and a binding created by a prominent Parisian atelier, this set is a very desirable example of French book arts in the early 19th century. It also, unsurprisingly, comes from the library of a distinguished collector. This new translation of Ovid's tales of transformation is brought to life in the scenes by Nicolas-André Monsiau (1754-1837), Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier (1738-1826), and Jean-Michel Moreau (usually called Moreau le jeune, 1741-1814), an assemblage which Ray describes as "a comprehensive sampling of the work done by these masters in their later years." Our binding was executed during the five-year partnership (1820-25) between Jean-Georges Purgold, known to contemporaries as "the prince of binders," and Hering, about whose identity experts disagree. Beyond noting that "Hering" was an English name, Béraldi, Flety, and Culot have no definitive information on the identity of that member of the partnership, although they agree it was not the binder J. Hering (the descendant of the celebrated London binder Charles Hering), who was later associated with Muller. Culot observes that most Purgold-Hering bindings feature, as here, multiple gilt rules and fleuron cornerpieces. Béraldi ranks Purgold (ca. 1784-1829) as one of the three great binders of the Bourbon Restoration (with Simier and Thouvenin), and dubs him "The Meticulous." Ramsden deems Purgold the best binder of this triumvirate when it came to technical skill. Trained at the legendary Bozerian bindery, Purgold opened his own workshop in 1810. Culot calls him the "master of fillets," a title entirely justified by the decoration here, which includes 15 precisely executed fillets on each cover, in addition to those adorning each raised band. This set once graced the shelves of French banker and liberal politician Jacques Laffitte (1767-1844), who served as governor of the Bank of France (1814-20), Prime Minister (1830-31), and president of the Chamber of Deputies. Purgold-Hering bindings are not common; we were able to trace just seven appearing at auction in the past 60 years.

Price: $6,500.00