(Amsterdam: Zacharie Chatelain, 1749). 440 x 297 mm. (17 1/4 x 11 1/2"). 4 p.l. (including half title, but without extra engraved title page), 152,  pp.With commentary by Antoine de Labarre de Beaumarchais. Third Edition.
Contemporary green roan, gilt, covers bordered by bead roll and ivy, smooth spine divided into panels by gilt fillets and chain roll, red morocco label, yellow endpapers speckled with red (repaired without great skill at head and tail of spine). Ornate woodcut tailpieces, engraved vignette on printed title, and 60 MAGNIFICENTLY DETAILED COPPERPLATES WITHIN RICHLY ORNAMENTAL BORDERS, depicting stories from Greek and Roman mythology, all with captions in French, English, German, and Dutch. Blank leaves inserted between half title and title page, and between plate LIX and quire Pp; quires Pp and Qq tipped onto the latter. Cohen-de Ricci 532; Brunet V, 696; Graesse VI (pt. 2), 49. Spine evenly darkened, joints and extremities somewhat worn, covers noticeably soiled and faded, paper missing at hinge between rear pastedown and free endpaper, but the once quite pretty binding still entirely solid; leaves a shade less than bright, half a dozen quires with more noticeable browning and spotting, occasional minor offsetting from plates, small stains, or thumbing, but a very good copy internally, with wide margins and excellent impressions of the engravings.
In Ray's words, this handsome work is full of "stately designs, replete with allegorical and mythological trappings," and reflects the accomplished production of "the outstanding professional illustrator of the first third of the eighteenth century." Bernard Picart (1673-1733) was born in Paris, where he learned engraving from his father, Etienne, and from Sébastian Le Clerc. Ray tells us that "he early acquired a reputation both as an artist and engraver." Picart moved to the busy publishing city of Amsterdam sometime before 1712, and established himself as both as printseller and as an illustrator/engraver. There, he designed and engraved an impressive body of illustrations for Dutch printers at a time when, according to Ray, "designs for the finest illustrated books were typically drawn by leading painters. He worked for the most part in the fading baroque tradition, but there are elements in his immense production which herald the new age [of Rococo design]." The engravings here are based upon those executed by Abraham van Diepenbeeck in 1655 for another "Temple des Muses," with text by Michel de Marolles. The present version, with commentary by Antoine de Labarre de Beaumarchais (d. ca. 1757), was first printed in 1733, and again in 1742. The tales depicted here include the labors of Hercules, Zeus' various romantic adventures, and the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. The carefully designed and executed engravings are all the more memorable because of the vastness of the volume. The attractive price here reflects this copy's defects. (ST17496-048)