The Handsomely Bound Kalbfleisch Copy of a "Gigantic Feat of Erudition"


(Lutetiae [Paris]: Robert Estienne, 1544, 1545). 340 x 222 mm. (13 1/2 x 8 3/4"). 498, [2] pp.; 138, [2] pp. Two separately printed works in one volume. EDITIO PRINCEPS of both works.

HANDSOME DARK BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO BY THE FRENCH BINDERS (front turn-in stamp-signed with the firm name; rear turn-in stamped "H. Hardy Relieur 1939 G. Pilon Doreur"), covers with blind-tooled frame enclosed by gilt and blind rules, raised bands flanked by gilt and blind rules, gilt titling, turn-ins with gilt- and blind-ruled frame, blind circular stamp at corners, leather hinges, edges gilt on the rough. In a brown linen slipcase. Printer's device Schreiber B2 on title page of each work and device Schreiber 10 on verso of final leaf of second work, woodcut headpieces and decorative initials. Front pastedown with morocco bookplate of Charles Kalbfleisch; recto of rear free endpaper with Kalbfleisch's pencilled notes recording purchase from Chiswick Book Shop in 1937 and binding in 1939; occasional modern pencilled marginal cross-references to other pages. Renouard 59: 11 & 12; Schreiber 78; Mortimer French 220; Adams E-1087, 1082. ◆One gathering with small, faint dampstain just at bottom of the leaves. In all other ways, AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY, the text remarkably fresh and bright, with leaves that crackle when you turn them, and in an unworn sympathetic binding.

Handsomely bound for an important bibliophile, these editiones principes of two key works by the scholar known as the "Father of Church History" were the first books to be set in Claude Garamond's stately "grecs du roi" type, commissioned by Robert Estienne. Appointed the Royal Printer in Greek by King François I, Estienne (1503-59) embarked on a project to print books from the Greek manuscripts in the king's library at Fontainebleu. Garamond based his Royal Greek type on the script of Cretan calligrapher Angelo Vergecio, and Schreiber tells us "these cursive Greek types are universally acknowledged as the finest ever cut." Estienne printed nine Greek editiones principes, which Schreiber says "left an indelible mark on . . . classical scholarship." According to critic and historian Arthur Tilley, "the exquisite beauty of these types, together with the good quality of the paper and ink, makes the Greek books printed by Robert Estienne and his successors among the most finished specimens of typography that exist." Described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as "a gigantic feat of erudition," Eusebius' "Preparation for the Gospels" is valued as a repository of information on paganism, preserving many extracts from classical authors that would otherwise be lost to us. A friend and adviser of the emperor Constantine, Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260 - ca. 340) wrote this work to persuade learned and pious (but heathen) readers hesitating to embrace Christianity that the truth is manifest in Scripture, while the pagan schools incessantly contradict one another. The first half of the work systematizes pagan religion and mythology as well as the doctrines of the philosophical schools and goes on to recognize the similarities of Platonic and Christian beliefs. In the second work, Eusebius demonstrates the ways Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and explains how Mosaic Law is superseded by the teachings of Jesus. The French Binders consisted of Henri Hardy, Leon Maillard, and Gaston Pilon, all (as one would expect) native Frenchmen brought to the states by Country Life Press just after the First World War. According to an early advertisement in "Publisher's Weekly," the press opened the bindery "with the purpose of bringing together distinguished members of the craft to afford them opportunity to work under the most advantageous conditions." The French Binders worked out of Garden City, New York, as indicated by their signature on the front turn-in. They received commissions from the discriminating American collector Charles C. Kalbfleisch (1868-1943) to provide fine bindings for some of his early printed books, including other Estienne imprints. Kalbfleisch focused on acquiring early printing, fine illustrations, and beautiful bindings for a library that would embody, in his words, "The Arts of the Book." His books are known for their consistently fine state of preservation, and the present volume lives up to his high standard, being unusually clean, fresh, and bright inside and out.

Price: $5,500.00