(Paris: Brunet, 1775-83). 225 x 142 mm. (8 7/8 x 5 5/8"). With blank leaf M6 in volume III, half title in volume IV. Four volumes. A new translation by M. d'Ussieux.
Appealing contemporary marbled calf, gilt, covers with triple gilt fillet border, flat spines gilt in compartments with central patera sunburst, lancet tools at corners and sides, one black and one red morocco label, red paste paper endpapers, all edges gilt. With engraved portrait in volume I and 92 ENGRAVED PLATES (with original tissue guards), 46 from the Baskerville suite (see below) and 46 by Cochin. Cohen-De Ricci 98; Ray, "French," p. 113. ◆Bindings with half a dozen small patches of lost patina due to insect activity, leather on spines a little dried and crackled, occasional mild browning, other trivial imperfections, but an extremely pleasing copy, especially internally, with a clean, remarkably fresh text, wide margins, and excellent impressions of the engravings.
Our French edition of Ariosto's great sprawling romantic epic combines illustrations from two famed editions with engravings by top artists of the period. Each of the 46 cantos of "Mad Orlando" has two plates depicting the events described, one from the Baskerville edition of 1773 printed in Italian for Molini and one from the quarto edition of the present French translation, published just before our octavo printing. These 46 pairs of images are not only aesthetically pleasing as engravings, but they allow for fascinating studies in interpretation because the pairs are consistently--and sometimes very distinctly--different one from the other. Jean-Michel Moreau, known as Moreau le Jeune (1741-1814), provided illustrations for Diderot's encyclopedia and engraved works for François Boucher, in addition to illustrating the works of Rousseau and Voltaire. According to the Getty Museum, "publishers sought him out for his powers of observation and ability to capture nuances of gesture, pose, and light." Ray says that the best work by Moreau "showed him to be the equal of the established rococo masters Boucher, Eisen, and Gravelot," and that in his heyday, "he carried all before him." Ray was enchanted by the Moreau engravings seen here, noting "Moreau was at the top of his form, as might have been expected when the most elegant of illustrators encountered the most elegant of poets." Charles Nicholas Cochin (1715-90) was one of the foremost French illustrators and one of the most influential persons in the French art world of the 18th century. He began producing engravings in his teens, was elected to the Academy at 26, and was a member of the court for 40 years, doing portraits of almost every celebrity of the period. As the person who provided the finished plates from the 276 original compositions by Oudry for the famous large folio edition of La Fontaine's "Fables" (1755-59), Cochin played an instrumental role in producing what Ray says is "one of the most ambitious and successful of all illustrated books." At 50,000 lines long and 26 years in the making and refining, "Orlando Furioso" by Ariosto (1474-1533) is one of the most singular and extravagant of narratives ever conceived. The story takes place against the background of the war between Charlemagne and the Saracens, when Orlando (Roland), 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.) First published in 1516, "Orlando" was translated into English, French (as here), Spanish, and German, becoming one of the most influential works of literature (writers indebted to Ariosto include Tasso, Cervantes, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, and Shelley). (ST17632b)