(Parigi [Paris]: [Printed at Orléans by Rouzeau-Montaut for] Gian Claudio Molini, 1788). 256 x 183 mm. (10 x 7 1/4"). Five volumes. Edited by Pietro Molini. ONE OF 49 LARGE PAPER COPIES (per Brunet).
Contemporary red straight-grain morocco, covers with single gilt rule border, raised bands flanked by gilt rules, two of the panels with gilt lettering, turn-ins with decorative gilt roll, pale green patterned silk endleaves, vellum flyleaves, all edges gilt. EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED WITH A TOTAL OF 182 ENGRAVINGS, consisting of five engraved titles, two frontispiece portraits (one before letters), and 94 plates, 71 of these in two states, five in three states (seven of the plates before letters mounted). Front pastedowns with morocco ex-libris of Albert Wander. Cohen-de Ricci 98; Brunet I, 438; Graesse I, 199. Spines a little sunned, one corner bumped, extremities lightly rubbed, faint scratch to front board of final volume, occasional minor foxing or small marginal stains to plates, a dozen plates somewhat browned, but still a very nearly fine copy, the text quite clean, fresh, and bright with vast margins, the plates with sharp impressions, and the bindings lustrous and showing little use.
This is an extravagantly extra-illustrated Large Paper Copy of a "very correct and well-printed" version of this great sprawling romantic epic, reprinting the Molini edition issued by Baskerville in 1773. The magnum opus of Ariosto (1474-1533) is 50,000 lines long, 26 years in the making and refining, and among the most influential works of literature (writers indebted to Ariosto include Tasso, Cervantes, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, and Shelley). One of the most singular and extravagant narratives ever conceived, the story of "Mad Orlando" takes place against the background of the war between Charlemagne and the Saracens, when Orlando, one of Charlemagne's finest knights, neglects his duty out of love for the pagan princess Angelica. After she falls in love with a Saracen and elopes, Orlando goes mad, and is only restored to sanity when another knight flies to the moon in Ezekiel's chariot and obtains a magic potion to break the spell. (There are many more complications.)
The plates here include the 46 engravings (one for each Canto of the poem) done by Bartolozzi and others after Eisen, Moreau, Monnet, Cochin, and Cipriani for the Baskerville edition, 25 of these in two states (before letters) and five in three states (before letters and eau forte), and the 46 illustrations done by Cochin for the French translation "Roland Furieux" (Paris, 1775-83), all in a second state (eau forte). There are also two engravings done by Moreau for a 1777 edition. This is the most lavishly illustrated copy of this edition, originally issued without plates, that we have been able to trace. Brunet noted that some of the Large Paper Copies of the 1788 edition, among them Renouard's, had the 46 plates from the Baskerville edition and the 46 from 1775 edition, in a single state, added. Cohen-de Ricci reported that the Bibliothèque Nationale's copy of our edition has the final and eau-forte versions of the Cochin engravings from the 1775 edition inserted. Auction records locate two copies with the Baskerville engravings (one in 1955), one set with the Cochin plates, and one with plates from an unidentified source. With engravings by some of the greatest Rococo artists of the heyday of the French Illustrated Book, the illustrations here offer us the opportunity to contrast, for example, Cochin's vision of a scene from the poem with that of Charles Eisen. These volumes once graced the library of Dr. Albert Wander (1867-1950), the Swiss pharmacist who invented Ovaltine. He was particularly fond of beautifully illustrated books in fine bindings. (ST17101)