LA FONTAINE, JEAN DE. Contes et nouvelles en vers. Amsterdam: [i.e., Paris: David jeune], 1762. First edition, the very rare first s...
. Amsterdam: [i.e., Paris: David jeune], 1762. First edition, the very rare first state with plates decouvertes and before letters. Two volumes, full red morocco gilt by Morrell in a neoclassical style, inner gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers all edges gilt. 6 5/8 x 4 inches (17 x 12 cm); xiv, 268,  pp.; viii, 306,  pp. Illustrated with 80 plates after Eisen engraved by Aliament, Barquoy, Choffard, Delafosse, Filipart, Lemire, Leveau, de Longueil; additionally, 4 vignettes and 53 culs-de-lampe by Choffard with the additional 7 rejected plates. The spine of volume one has been expertly relaid, volume two with very minor splitting to upper hinge, but in all a very attractive copy, internally fresh.
Financed and published by the Compagnie des Fermiers-Generaux, the royal tax gatherers, this edition of La Fontaine's saucy fables has long been esteemed as one of the masterpieces of ancien regime book production. Here it is in its first and rarest issue, complete with the additional plates inserted by Chafford and with the plates for Le Cas de conscience, Le Diable de Papefiguiere, Les Lunettes, Le Rossignol et Richard Minutolo in the decouverte state. While the first two are more commonly encountered, the other three plates in the first and unabashedly erotic form are extremely rare. The work was described by the Goncourt brothers as "the great monument and triumph of the vignette, which dominates and crowns all the illustrations of the age." The designs of celebrated genre painter Charles Eisen (1720-1778) have secured its place as an acknowledged masterpiece of French rococo book illustration. The work has recently been exhaustively reexamined in David Adams' remarkable Book Illustration, Taxes and Propaganda: the Fermiers-Generaux edition of La Fontaine's Contes et nouvelles en vers of 1762, Oxford, The Voltaire Foundation, 2006. Ray Art of the French Illustrated Book 26.
R.B. Adam with his morocco-gilt bookplate with Samuel Johnson portrait (likely sold at auction in 1926)
Pierre Lecomte du Nouy, French biophysicist and philosopher, and then by descent to the family of Mary Lecomte du Nouy with red morocco ex-libris.
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