HORATIUS FLACCIUS, Quintus (65-8 B.C.). Opera. Edited by Pierre Didot l'aîné (1760-1853). Paris: P. Didot l'aîné, 1799.
2° (475 x 341mm). PRINTED ON VELLUM. Half-title. Limitation leaf printed in gold on vellum, manuscript cancellans slip on paper pasted over limitation statement on a2v. Title vignette and 11 engraved headpieces by H. Marais, Abraham Girardet, Jacques-Joseph Coiny, and François-Joseph-Étienne Beisson after Charles Percier printed on india and mounted together with the original pen-and-ink and wash drawings by Percier, 5 drawings in reverse, the engravings and drawings within printed gilt borders and captioned in ink within printed gilt cartouches. (Occasional light discolouration, heavier at the extremities of the margins, some cockling of the vellum, affecting drawings and prints.) Bound for Botfield by Charles Lewis, c.1830; gold-tooled blue straight-grained morocco, sides panelled with interlacing strapwork interspersed with palmette and other tools, spine similarly tooled in compartments, lettered in 3, silver-gilt fore-edge clasps designed by Thomas Willement [cf. P. & F. Acquisitions], the mounts formed of cornucopiae, the clasps a lyre within laurel wreath, mounts and clasps London 1830, with maker's mark 'W.T.', broad turn-ins gilt with repeat palmette tools, vellum pastedowns with dense field of gilt foliate ovals alternately enclosing a 'B' and a foliate tool, vellum endleaves gilt with broad palmette borders and backed with paper, gilt and gauffered edges (a few minor scuff marks), maroon straight-grained gilt morocco box (case lightly rubbed and bumped at extremities, lock defective). Provenance: Andoche Junot, duc d'Abrantès (1771-1813, limitation leaf stating that this copy, one of two on vellum, was specially selected and prepared for him; his sale, Evans, 19 June 1816, lot 108, £140) -- George Hibbert (1757-1837, his sale, Evans, 16 March 1829, lot 4171, £83.3.00, to Pickering) -- Beriah Botfield, brought from Payne & Foss for £100 (P. & F. Acquisitions; very finely painted armorial in gilt and colours on front free endleaf by Thomas Willement).
ONE OF TWO COPIES PRINTED ON VELLUM OF DIDOT'S 'TRèS-BELLE éDITION' (BRUNET), THIS PREPARED FOR JUNOT AND WITH PERCIER'S ORIGINAL DRAWINGS, IN A BINDING THAT LEWIS CONSIDERED HIS 'CHEF D'OEUVRE'. In 1797 the Ministry of the Interior granted Pierre Didot l'ainé the site in the Louvre previously occupied by the royal press, where Didot produced his celebrated editions of Virgil, Horace and Racine in 1798, 1799 and 1801 respectively. These editions were considered by Edmond Werdet 'chefs-d'oeuvre qui resteront au nombre des plus beaux monuments dont s'honore notre patrie' (Études bibliographiques sur la famille des Didot (Paris: 1864), p.20), and were esteemed not only for their typographic beauty, but also that of their illustration.
Didot's Horace was published in an edition of 250 copies; of these, the first 100 were illustrated with proofs on india of the engravings, and in addition there were two copies printed on vellum, of which the present copy included the original drawings and was prepared for Andoche Junot, one of Napoleon's leading generals and the owner of a library particularly rich in works by Didot and Bodoni printed on vellum. These finely-finished drawings for the 'douze charmantes vignettes' (Brunet) that decorate the work are by Charles Percier (1764-1838), an architect, draughtsman and drawing-master who was a key figure in the birth and development of the empire style, integrating the classical influences that he absorbed through his study of ancient architecture (particularly during a period of five years in Rome), with contemporary taste. The illustrations for Horace's Opera complement the neo-classical restraint of Didot's typography with the nicest discrimination, and this edition won the praise of critics as exacting as Brunet and T.F. Dibdin, the latter stating that 'This splendid edition is adorned with twelve very beautiful vignettes ... The whole work is, in fact, truly sumptuous and magnificent; and ... eclipses all other editions in graphical and typographical beauty' (An Introduction to ... Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics (London: 1827, 2 volumes), II, p.117).
Prior to its purchase by Botfield, this copy was well known as a highlight of the Junot and Hibbert libraries. Following Junot's death in 1813 his library was sold by Evans in London in 1816, and this volume passed into the collection of George Hibbert M.P. (a member like Botfield of the Roxburghe Club), where it was recorded by Dibdin: 'Mr. Hibbert is the fortunate possessor of a UNIQUE COPY of [Didot's Horace], UPON VELLUM, enclosing the original designs of Percier; which copy was expressly printed for the late General Junot [and] was purchased (and by no means extravagantly) by Mr. H. for 140l.' (loc. cit.) Following Hibbert's decision to move from London to a smaller residence in Hertfordshire, a large portion of his substantial collection was auctioned by Evans in a sale that lasted 42 days.
When Botfield bought the volume, he appears to have commissioned the present binding by Lewis. Payne & Foss's Acquisitions book has an entry in one hand for the volume itself (at the price of £100), and below it an additional note in another hand, reading: 'In Grolier fashioned blue morocco by Charles Lewis, esteemed by that artist his chef d'oeuvre, with clasps designed by Willement', and recording the cost of £91.13.00 -- only a little less than that of the volume itself. Botfield's elaborate armorial on the front free endleaf was executed by Thomas Willement (1786-1871, Heraldic Artist to George IV and later Artist in Stained Glass to Queen Victoria), presumably at the time of binding. The Lewis binding can therefore be dated to the years between Hibbert's sale in 1829 and Lewis's death in 1836 (and more narrowly to the earlier part of this period by the clasps). It is a magnificent example of his work; even allowing for exaggeration by Payne & Foss, Lewis's description of it as his chef d'oeuvre seems fully justified. Brunet III, 323 (noting this copy); Cohen-De Ricci col.499 (noting this copy); Ray The French Illustrated Book 71.