Perhaps Bound by Clovis Eve, Perhaps Owned by Talleyrand, Definitely Owned by Charles Kalbfleisch


(Paris: Michel Sonnius, 1607). 224 x 168 mm. (8 3/4 x 6 1/2"). 4 p.l., 388, [12], 373, [31], 4, 243, [1] (blank) pp.With commentary by Laurent Ramirez de Prado and index by Joseph Lang. First Edition with this commentary.

SUPERB CONTEMPORARY PARISIAN OLIVE BROWN MOROCCO, ELEGANTLY GILT, POSSIBLY BY THE EVE BINDERY, covers with outer frame of gilt rules and repeating scollop stamp, inner frame of double gilt rules with oblique floral spring at corners, central panel with leafy branches at corners, "B R D" monogram with marquis coronet at center, inside an oval laurel wreath, smooth spine with similar frame enclosing gilt vertical titling (neat repairs to a couple of corners and head of rear joint). In a folding brown cloth chemise and matching morocco-backed slipcase. Printer's device on title page, tondo engraving of Venus and Cupid on p. 40 of commentary. Front pastedown with morocco bookplate of Charles Kalbfleisch; front free endpaper with pasted-on bookseller's description, noting provenance from the Talleyrand-Perigord library; ink inscription dated 1699 of Eduard Bach__[?]; title page with similar inscription dated 1694 and ink signature of "Maufoux." Dibdin II, 230 (mentioning this copy); USTC 6016522. Two tiny chips to head of spine, leather of spine with a couple of light creases, L2 with lower corner torn away, grazing first letter of one line, occasional faint browning, otherwise quite a fine copy internally with nothing but trivial imperfections, and the decorative binding showing little wear and glistening with gold.

This is a famous copy of an uncommon edition of the Latin poet's epigrams satirizing city life and the scandalous behavior of his contemporaries. The volume was described (with acute moderation) by Dibdin as "beautiful . . . in a fine old binding," and he noted that it had been part of the Talleyrand collection before being acquired by Henry Labouchere. Of the epigrams penned by Martial (ca. 40-104 A.D.), Smith says that "it is impossible not to be amazed by the singular fertility of imagination, the prodigious flow of wit, and the delicate felicity of language everywhere developed in this extraordinary collection, and from no source do we derive more copious information on the national customs and social habits of the Romans during the first century of the empire." A pencilled note on the front pastedown and a tipped-in description from bookseller G. Michelmore & Co. on the front flyleaf identify Nicolas Eve as the binder of our volume, but this cannot be the case, as he died in 1581; however, it was certainly executed by one of the leading Parisian ateliers of the beginning of the 17th century, perhaps that of Nicolas' son, Clovis, who was bookbinder to the king from 1583-1633. The "B D R" monogram has not been identified, but a similar binding with the same cipher appeared in a 1929 sale at Gumuchian, Paris, on a copy of Pindar. A conjectural provenance finds our book in the library of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), as a copy matching its description appeared in Sotheby's 1816 sale of the famed diplomat's splendid library. Talleyrand was one of the most gifted and effective diplomats in all of European history, and his major influence was felt from the time of Louis XVI to the reign of Louis-Philippe. In recent times, this volume was in the collection of the distinguished American collector Charles C. Kalbfleisch (1868-1943), who was particularly interested in fine bindings and early printing and whose books are known for their consistently fine state of preservation.

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PJP Catalog: 76.048