(Parigi [Paris]: Appresso Agostino Delalain et al. 1771). 235 x 145 mm. (9 1/4 x 5 7/8"). Two volumes.
LOVELY CONTEMPORARY RED MOROCCO "RELIURE DE PRÉSENT" DESIGNED BY GRAVELOT AND EXECUTED BY DEROME LE JEUNE, covers with French fillet frame, floral cornerpieces, flat spines bordered with double gilt rules and elaborately decorated in gilt: title within draped and foliate border surrounded by literary, warlike, and pastoral emblems, two leafy sprays extending from small cartouche at the lower end; attractively gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED THROUGHOUT: including two frontispiece portraits, two engraved titles with large vignettes, engraved dedication plate, 20 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES, 20 HAUT DE PAGE VIGNETTES (tondo portraits of characters), AND 23 ADDITIONAL PLATES (14 TAILPIECE VIGNETTES AND NINE VERY LARGE ENDPIECES (normally referred to as "vignettes," but occupying most of otherwise blank pages), ALL AFTER DESIGNS BY GRAVELOT. Cohen-de Ricci 974-75; Ray 22a; Brunet V, 667. For the binding: Schäfer Catalogue, p. 127; Schiff Collection 35. Rear board of volume II with small abrasion near tail (well masked with dye), minor soiling and variation in color of the morocco, a few insignificant spots internally, but A FINE, TALL COPY, with rich impressions of the engravings on fresh, clean, and bright "papier de hollande."
Called by Cohen-de Ricci a "trés belle édition . . . avec illustrations superbes," this Parisian printing of Tasso's celebrated epic "Jerusalem Delivered" in Italian is one of the most beautiful books of the 18th century; and our copy is in the rare presentation binding designed by the esteemed Rococo artist and designer Hubert-François Gravelot (1699-1773), who was also responsible for the fine engravings. Among the lush and delicate illustrations, the almost full-page endpieces that conclude each chapter are a very charming highlight, showing fleshy cherubs at war (often in comically inappropriate battle attire). In examining this "handsome and delightful book," Ray says that "the plates tell the story of Tasso's Christian heroes with fidelity and discrimination, even catching something of the poem's ambiance of mystery and romance. But it is in the tailpieces that Gravelot triumphs." Through them, the illustrator is able "to present a joyous running commentary not only on Tasso's poem but sometimes on his own plates interpreting it. Without mocking chivalry, he makes it a source of sympathetic amusement." The binding here is a source of interest at least as considerable as that of the book's illustrations. It was designed by Gravelot and was used, with only slightly varying ornamentation, for a small number of copies of this work intended to be presented as gifts from the publisher, who is identified as G. Conti on the dedication page. It is probably the most readily recognizable presentation binding of the period. The Schiff catalogue says that such a Gravelot binding "is occasionally met with, more or less altered, on other volumes," and the Schiff collection contained examples of a book by La Fontaine and one by Racine in a binding of similar design. Except for these examples, our experience has not included any other books as early as the 18th century with both bindings and illustrations executed by the same artist. Most important, the design of the bindings is very pleasing, and our copy is especially well preserved, with leaves as fresh and engravings as rich as could be hoped for. (ST16007)