JEAN DE LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)
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JEAN DE LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)

Details
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)

Contes et nouvelles en vers. Paris, [Pierre] Didot: 1795. 2 volumes, 4° (317 x 242mm). Printed on papier vélin. Volume I with two etched portrait frontispieces of Fragonard, one after Lemoine dated 1797, the other before letters, one large etched cul-de-lampe, title vignette by Choffard, etched medallion portrait of La Fontaine by and after P. Martial in two states, with and without the 'table', and 25 plates, 19 after Fragonard, by Dambrun, Dupreel, Delignon, Halbou, Lingée, Patas, Tilliard, and Trière, the remaining 6 plates after Mallet, Monnet, Touzé and others. Of the plates after Fragonard, 16 are the published plates in two states, preliminary etchings and finished engravings after letters [Cohen-De Ricci nos 2, 4-8, 11-14, 19-20, 22-25], while the 3 others are preliminary etchings [nos 8, 9, and 26]. Volume II with title vignette by Choffard, 2 preliminary etchings after Fragonard [nos 36-37], and extra-illustrated with a series of 34 etched plates before letters by [?]Martial. With half-titles and list of contents at end of each volume. (Preliminaries in volume I loose, one plate spotted at margins, a few plates rehinged, some offsetting onto text.) Late 19th-century red morocco gilt by Allô, top edges gilt, others uncut.

'The status of a copy is the number of proof plates after Fragonard's designs' (Ray). This is therefore an IMPORTANT COPY, CONTAINING A COMPLETE SERIES OF 21 PRELIMINARY ETCHINGS AFTER FRAGONARD. The unpublished plate to 'Féronde' (Cohen-De Ricci no. 37), was known to the bibliographers in only one copy (Beraldi). The artist's illustrations to La Fontaine's Contes et nouvelles were never completed. According to Didot's prospectus, 80 illustrations were to appear in eight numbers of ten plates each, accompanying a text of two quarto volumes. But in the aftermath of 'The Terror' Fragonard was unable or disinclined to continue, only two numbers appeared containing a total of 20 plates, and in the second number, 4 plates were after other artists. As Ray states, a further 17 drawings, 5 by Fragonard, were eventually brought to some form of completion by the engravers. Of the 37 possible plates, published and unpublished, listed by Cohen-De Ricci, the present copy has 27. The plates after other artists are nos 3, 16, 18[?], 21 ('n'existe que dans l'exemplaire Sieurin'), 27 and 30. The out-of-series plates in volume II are attributed to Martial in a bibliographical note, and the large cul-de-lampe in volume I is said to be from Lemonyer's edition. Brunet III, col.760; Cohen-De Ricci 573-582; Ray Art of the French Illustrated Book 77. (2)
Provenance
19th-century armorial bookplate with motto 'Deo et regi'.
Maurice Harlay (bookplate).
Several catalogue descriptions pasted onto front blank in volume I together with bibliographical notes in pencil.
'Maggs 1949 £50' (pencil note on rear pastedown of volume I).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 5-6 May 1988, lot 65 (to Dreesmann). Dr Anton C.R. Dreesmann (inventory no. Y-64).
Special notice

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