LE FEVRE, Raoul (fl.1464). Le recueil des histoires de Troyes. [Haarlem: Jacob Bellaert, c. 1485-86].
Chancery 2° (265 x 195mm). Collation: aa-kk8: book I, aa1r blank, verso full-page woodcut of the author presenting his book to Philip the Good (Kok 11.6:1) within four-piece woodcut border of foliate and animal ornament (the vertical strips upside down, Kok 11.3:1-4), aa2r prologue incipit (Q)uant je regarde et cognois les opinions des hommes en aucunes singulieres histoires de troyes, aa3r half-page double-scene woodcut (Kok 11.7:1) and text, incipit (T)ous les filz de noe espars par les climatz; A-G8 H4: book II, A1r half-page white-on-black woodcut (Kok 11.7:11) and text, incipit Comment herculez combatit contre troys lyons en la forest de nemee si les tua et en print les peaulx. (A)u premier lyvre a este determine des fais de hercules le fort et puissant geant; I-O8 P6: book III, I1r incipit (E)s deux livres precedens par layde de dieu le tout puissant iay traictie et demomonstre les deux constructions dicelle auctorite...Comment le roy priant filz du roy laomedon reppara la forte cite de troies, P6r full-page printer's woodcut device (first state, incorporating the arms of the city of Haarlem, Kok 11.1), verso blank. 192 leaves only (of 194, lacking sheet ee4.5 including one woodcut= Kok 11.6:14). At least a dozen paper stocks: anchor, French arms, hand, hound, gothic P, heart, fleur-de-lis, pot, wheel, unicorn, Coeur arms watermarks (the only identical one so far recorded in G. van Thienen's on-line database, Watermarks in incunabula printed in the Low Countries [http://watermark.kb.nl] is the wheel, Van Thienen WM I 00469). Gothic type 1:98. Double column, 39 lines. Initial-spaces, some with guide-letters.
ILLUSTRATION: the four blocks of the border around the first woodcut were first employed in Bellaert's 1484 ed. of Belial (CA 1656). The printer's device originally appeared in his 1483 ed. of Liden ende passie Jesu Christi (CA 1157); Dr Kok determined from the condition of its block the dates of both this Recueil and the same author's L'histoire de Jason (CA 1091) as between 24 December 1485 and 24 July 1486. ONE FULL-PAGE AND 46 HALF-PAGE WOODCUTS PRINTED FROM 32 BLOCKS (Kok 11.6:14 missing; Kok 11.6:6 repeated four times; 11.6:13, 11.7:3, 11.7:15, 11.7:14, 11.7:18 and 11.7:23 once; 11.7:10 three times; 11.7:22 twice). Twenty-five blocks were designed and cut for this text and first appeared in Bellaert's 5th May 1485 Dutch edition (CA 1095; Kok 11.7:1-25); eight were designed for the Dutch Jason (CA 1092; Kok 11.6:1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14 and 19), but plausibly illustrate scenes in Recueil. Conway, who first listed these cuts in 1884 and whose numbering is adopted by Kok, ascribed them all to the same Haarlem artist in Bellaert's workshop; his idea of a single artist for the shop's entire output has found general acceptance. (Some half-dozen sheets browned, a few insignificant marginal dampstains, very minor worming in the final two quires.) English binding of c. 1825, presumably for George Hibbert of Clapham, gold-tooled mauve morocco, sides and compartments of spine with borders of multiple fillets and floral tools, wide turn-ins decorated with fillets and acorn tools, gilt edges, (slightly discoloured in places).
Provenance: no evidence of early ownership -- loosely inserted early-19th-century note in German, relating to Caxton and Vérard editions -- George Hibbert (25 May 1829 Evans sale, 32nd day, lot 6745 'blue morocco with joints', £13 to Payne & Foss) -- Beriah Botfield, bought of Payne & Foss in the 1830s for 18 gns (binding described as 'blue morocco' in P. & F. Acquisitions list).
Second edition in French (first: Bruges, Caxton, c. 1474 [Duff 243]), second illustrated edition (first: Bellaert, 1485 [ILC 1421], containing the same cuts) of this popular medieval cycle of Trojan stories taken from a variety of sources. Book I gives the history of Hercules and his first destruction of Troy, book II describes further deeds of Hercules, the reconstruction of Troy and its second destruction, and book III the final destruction by the Greeks. Its first - unillustrated - appearance was Caxton's English translation (see previous lot). Bellaert's two editions are among THE FINEST AND RAREST NETHERLANDISH WOODCUT BOOKS OF THE 15TH CENTURY.
Only three other copies are extant: (1) complete, in the collection of Gian Francesco De Rossi (1796-1854), now on deposit from the Jesuits in the Vatican Library; (2) Copenhagen, Royal Library, lacking aa1 and P1; (3) Guildford, Royal Grammar School, fragment only (F2-L8, N1-8). The Hibbert-Botfield copy is almost complete and IN EXTREMELY FINE CONDITION, with the first and last leaves as fresh as the bulk of the book. The Heber copy of this edition, to which Gustave Brunet (1865) and Campbell (1874) refer, is apparently a ghost; both Brunet's price (£32) and Campbell's lot reference (IV 1835) relate to Bellaert's French edition of Jason (ILC 1416). Bellaert's Dutch-language Recueil is even rarer (Bibliothéque nationale de France and Library of Congress only).
C 2490; Accurti II, 43; CA-Kron 1094; Madsen 2460; ILC 1420; BAVI L-70; J.-C. Brunet, Manuel III, 926; G. Brunet, La France littéraire p. 108; W.M. Conway, The woodcutters of the Netherlands pp. 66-67, 239-242; Ina Kok, De houtsneden in de incunabelen van de Lage Landen pp. 435-452, 474 (note 22).