CONTANT, Paul (c.1570-1632). Le jardin et cabinet poetique. Poitiers: Antoine Mesnier, 1609.
8° (212 x 150mm). Engraved architectonic title, folding plate depicting a bouquet of botanical specimens, and 9 etched zoological plates, woodcut headpieces and initials. (Occasional faint browning; external margins of plates 6,7 and 8 slightly shorter.) 19th-century red crushed morocco, by Duru, signed and dated 1885, spine with raised bands in six compartments, lettered in gilt in the second and third, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges.
FIRST EDITION OF A BEAUTIFUL BAROQUE BOOK WITH TEN ENGRAVED PLATES: 'THE FIRST FRENCH ILLUSTRATED BOOK TO DESCRIBE A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES; ONE OF THE RAREST OF ALL WUNDERKAMMER BOOKS' (Florence Fearrington).
The work is a poetical description of the cabinet of curiosities assembled by two master apothecaries from Poitiers, Jacques, the father, and his son Paul, also a poet and the author of the book. The illustration includes an engraved title and 9 plates engraved by the author: 1 folding bouquet of nearly 60 different flowers and 8 plates of real and imaginary animals; birds, fish, reptiles, or monsters such as a dog with eight legs, a one-eyed sheep or a winged dragon.
The book is dedicated to Contant's fellow Huguenot, the Duke of Sully; Schnapper stresses the importance of the author’s Huguenot background in making him more open and curious about wonders of the natural world which challenge the traditional picture of nature associated with the Catholic Church. It is also interesting to note that the work hails from the provinces, outside of any academic milieu. It is one of the finest illustrated books printed at Poitiers.
A fine copy bound by Duru. It appeared in the Bulletin Morgand (no. 7429).
OCLC lists only two copies in the United States, Getty and Hunt Botanical Institute; there is another copy in Florence Fearrington's library exhibited at the Grolier Club in 2012 (Fearrington, Rooms of Wonder, 6 ('Contant's collection was particularly strong in ethnographic material from North America'); Alden & Landis, 609.23; Hunt 188; Soultrait 17th century 62.