PARIS 1683 -- GHERARDI, Evaristo. Le Theatre Italien de Gherardi, ou le recueil general de toutes les Comedies & Scenes Françoises jouées par les Comediens Italiens du Roy, pendant tout le temps qu'ils ont été au Service. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Cusson and Pierre Witte, 1700.
6 volumes, 8o (160 x 87 mm). Half-titles. Engraved frontispiece plate in each volume and 55 engraved plates by BENOIT AUDRAIN, FRANZ ERTINGER, and ÉTIENNE DESROCHERS after FRANçOIS VERDIER, J. DOLIVET, and DESMARETS, and 61 leaves of music (14 folding). 18th-century calf, spines gilt (some light wear, spine ends chipped, some joints starting).
FIRST COLLECTED EDITION, compiled by the famous actor and harlequin Evaristo Gherardi. Italian actors had been visiting Paris since the sixteenth century, and in 1660 a permanent Italian theater group was installed in Paris under royal protection. The group became known as the Comédiens Italiens du Roi, and while originally performing in their native Italian to French audiences, by 1681 they had begun to perform in French, adapting the characters and traditions of their commedia dell'arte to suit the French tastes for satire and social realism. Gradually the group began to incorporate spectacle, dance, and song into their plays and also parodied popular operatic conventions and even specific theatrical works. These six volumes contain the French repertoire of the Comédiens Italiens du Roi consisting of 55 comedies written by Dufresney, Regnard, Delorme, Gherardi, and others, and performed from 1683 until 1697, the year in which the Italian group was disbanded and banished from France after offending King Louis XIV. The plates, serving as frontispieces to each work, illustrate the elaborate costumes, scenery, and masks adapted from the commedia dell'arte.