Fables Choisies, Mises en Vers par J. de la Fontaine


Leiden: Chez Luzac & van Damme. 1786.

First edition with these illustrations. Three volumes. 8vo in 4s. 195x115mm. Vol. 1, Tome Premier (1786), Tome Second (1764): pp. xxiv, [4], 79 [1bl], two engraved frontispieces, 45 engraved plates; [4], 78, 50 engraved plates. Vol. 2, Tome Troisieme (1770) and Tome Quartrieme (1775): pp. [4], 69 [1bl], 43 engraved plates; [8], 108, 45 engraved plates. Vol. 3, Tome Cinquieme (1786) and Tome Sixieme (1786): pp. xliv, II, 89 [1bl], 42 engraved plates; iv, 152, 50 engraved plates. Beautifully bound by P. Affolter (signed on verso of front free endpaper) in tan calf, gilt triple fillet to upper and lower boards. Spine with five raised bands, four compartments decorated with a thistle motif surrounded by gilt stars and dots inside a decorated border, second compartment with a maroon label lettered in gilt and third compartment with a brown label decorated and lettered and numbered in gilt. Dentelles decorated in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt; yellow, red and green silk ribbons. In superb condition with only the very lightest of shelfwear. Probably best known for his lavish fin-de-siecle work in the Art Nouveau style, Paul Affolter began his career (he opened his workshop in 1800) producing elegant, understated but technically assured work and so, although this handsome and immaculate binding is undated, it is almost certainly from this early period. Internally very good but some foxing and browning. The plates (275 plus the two frontispieces) by Jan Punt, Reinier Vinkeles and Abraham Delflos are in excellent condition and it is their quality that accounts for the twenty-eight year gap between the beginning of this project and its end. The engravings are after those done by Jean Baptiste Oudry for the 1755-1759 folio edition (save for the frontispiece after Picart). This octavo edition was first proposed in 1758 which is the date on some of the earliest plates. It was hoped to issue each volume at six-monthly intervals but the engravers worked so slowly that the edition was not finished until 1786. The first volume was then given a title page with that date with the later volumes being given the dates of their completion. The last plates, the work of Vinkeles, a student of Punt, are dated 1781. It was certainly worth the wait as it is a lovely set enhanced by Affolter's binding.

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