(Lugd[uni] Batavorum [Leyden]: Ex Officina Elzeviriana, 1629). 123 x 75 mm. (4 7/8 x 3"). Three volumes. Edited by Daniel Heinsius. First Elzevir Edition.

SUPERB CONTEMPORARY RED MOROCCO, LAVISHLY GILT, BY MACÉ RUETTE, covers in the "losange et écoinçons" style with large central lozenge composed of massed small tools and pointillé scrollwork within a 16-sided frame, corners of boards with similar filigree tooling, other corners with groups of floral tools, raised bands, spine compartments with central fleuron, scrolling cornerpieces, gilt titling, turn-ins with decorative gilt roll, marbled pastedowns, all edges gilt. Housed in fine modern maroon suede clamshell boxes backed with matching calf by Bibliophilia Bern. Title page of first volume with engraved ornate frame containing a tondo portrait of Ovid at head, woodcut printer's device, and decorative initials. A few leaves printed in red and black. Willems 317; Rahir 288; Dibdin, pp. 266-67; Brunet IV, 272 ("bonne édition"); Graesse V, 70. For the binding: Bibliothèque Raphaël Esmerian, Deuxième Partie, vol . II, no. 5 (8 Dec. 1972). Four small dark patches to leather, joints and corners just faintly rubbed, text a shade less than bright, occasional small rust spots (one affecting a couple of words), other trivial imperfections, but A FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally, in tight, lustrous bindings with only very slight signs of wear.

This lovely set epitomizes early 17th century fine printing and fine binding. According to Dibdin, our first Elzevier printing of Ovid, with a new recension by Heinsius, was "highly treasured," especially by French collectors. Among these bibliophiles was the man who likely commissioned this binding from an innovative master craftsman who was one of the best binders in Paris. According to Esmerian, the courtier, scholar, and inaugural member of the Académie Française Henri-Louis Habert de Montmort (1600-79) began collecting Elzeviers in the 1620s and having them immediately bound by Macé Ruette (1584–1644), who had established his workshop in 1606, after an eight-year apprenticeship with Dominique Salis. Ruette served as administrator of the Guild of Booksellers, Printers, and Binders from 1629-34, and was appointed Relieur du Roi in 1629, succeeding Clovis Eve. Our binding has the "lozenge and corners" design and the filigree pointillé tooling introduced by Ruette and resurrected in the neo-gothic styles used by Thouvenin and others in the 19th century. It is the same design, employing many of the same tools and with minor variations, as lot no. 5 in volume II of the Esmerian sale at Palais Galleria, Paris, in December 1972, on a volume of Homer. The use of marbled paper for endpapers, as seen here, was another Ruette innovation; while he may not have invented the process, as originally claimed by La Caille, he was one of the first in France to employ it. Esmerian was of the opinion that small volumes like these displayed Ruette's artistry to better advantage than quartos and folios.

Keywords: Elzevier