(Paris: Firmin Didot, 1811). 165 x 115 mm. (6 1/2 x 4"). Two volumes. Editions stéréotype d'après le procédé de Firmin Didot. A UNIQUE COPY, printed for Monsieur F. Bertin.
ELEGANT CRIMSON CRUSHED MOROCCO BY LORTIC (stamp-signed on front turn-in) covers framed by two sets of gilt French fillets, oblique pointillé tulips extending from the corners of the inner frame, raised bands, spine compartments with inlaid arabesque frame of green morocco enclosing either a floral sprig or the volume number, this surrounded by pointillé tooling forming a dense lace background, gilt lettering in one compartment, turn-ins with intricate gilt roll, gilt fillets, and dogtooth roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Front pastedown of volume I with red morocco bookplates of P. Desq, Henri Bordes, and Léon Rattier. Some leaves with a small hole in the upper margin--almost certainly from the printing process. Van Praet II, 362; "Notice d'une collection unique et infiniment précieuse, composée des meilleurs auteurs français, et de quelques auteurs latins, anglais et italiens, tous imprimés sur très beau vélin d'Allemagne par P. Didot, l'aîné, et par d'autres imprimeurs célèbres de Paris" (1815), p. 13 (this copy). ◆A little waviness to the vellum leaves (as nearly always), endleaves with a faint shadow from binder's glue, but IN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE CONDITION INSIDE AND OUT, the vellum clean and bright, and the bindings beautifully preserved.
This is an exquisite set printed on bright, creamy vellum by the illustrious Didot firm for a special patron, and bound by one of the great French artisans of the 19th century; unsurprisingly, it also comes with distinguished provenance. And it is of singular interest as the only copy (not only of this edition, but perhaps of any edition) printed on vellum. In the early 19th century, French bibliophile F. Bertin had works by prominent French writers--and also some works in Latin, English, and Italian--printed for him on vellum by Didot and other distinguished Parisian printers. In 1815, Didot printed a catalogue of this collection for him (on vellum, of course) in which the present work appears on p. 13. After Bertin's death, the collection was sold at auction in 1837. A later owner had the set bound by Pierre Marcellin Lortic (1822-92), who apprenticed with the Gruel bindery before opening his own workshop in 1844. Over the next 40 years, he won numerous awards, became a preeminent Parisian binder, and was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Beraldi says of Lortic: "For the decoration [of a binding], Lortic, with real passion, conceived the bound book as a jewel: he loved the rich, the sumptuous, the flamboyant." Beraldi put Lortic in the first rank of gilders, even though Pierre did not do the gilding with his own hand. Instead, he employed the best doreurs available, including Wampflugh, Maillard, and Domont, before his talented son (and eventual successor) Marcellin took over those responsibilities in the 1870s. First printed in 1755, the text here is a selection of plays written by an unlikely pair of collaborators. David-Augustine de Brueys (1640-1723) was a French Protestant theologian who converted to Catholicism and became a priest, while Jean de Palaprat (1650-1721) was a lawyer. They wrote a number of plays that were produced by the Comédie-Française, seven of which are collected here. Former owner Léon Rattier was the heir to a textile fortune and a man of exquisite taste. He was married to the cousin of Edmond de Goncourt, one of the arbiters of taste in Belle Epoque Paris, and entertained this sophisticate each summer at his chateau in L'Isle-en-Rigault in the northeast department of Meuse. In his journal, Goncourt noted that the glories of the chateau included "a collection of books and bindings worth more than a million [francs]." Always aesthetically pleasing, volumes from the Rattier library are renowned for their beauty and uniformly outstanding condition. This set also graced the library of Henri Bordes (1842-1911), director of the Bordeaux Steam Navigation Company and a member of the Société des Bibliophiles François. (ST18761)