LA FONTAINE, JEAN DE. 1621-1695.
Fables choisies, mises en vers. Paris: Desaint & Saillant and Durand, 1755-59.
4 volumes. Folio (407 x 280 mm). , xviii, 124 [-91-94]; , ii, 135 [-7,8]; , iv, 146 [-9,10,19,20,67,68]; , iv, 188 pp. Engraved frontispiece, 270 (of 275) engraved plates, all after Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and woodcut tailpieces, all hand-colored, those in volumes 2, 3 & 4 heightened with gum arabic. Period red morocco with gilt-stamped arms of Louis XV, gilt fleur-de-lis at corners, spine gilt, a.e.g. Wanting some text leaves, portrait of La Fontaine and 5 plates, Some occasional offset from plates, a few spots, but generally clean, spines with varying degrees of wear, some with loss, some covers faded.
Provenance: Louis XV [1710-1774] (gilt-stamped arms on covers).
HAND-COLORED FOR LOUIS XV, THE FIRST EDITION OF THE OUDRY-ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF LA FONTAINE'S FABLES, SECOND ISSUE. Oudry began his sketches based upon the fables of La Fontaine in 1729 while he was director of the Beauvais tapestry factory. He made a total of 276 sketches before he finished in 1734. The publisher describes in the preface of the above work how Oudry composed the drawings "for his own pleasure, and in those chosen moments of imagination when an Artist grasps the idea of his subject and gives free reign to his genius" (Ray's translation). "One of the most ambitious and successful of all illustrated books" (Ray).
This copy is particularly rare and interesting as it was finely colored and heightened with gum arabic. We have traced other royal colored copies in the libraries of the Comte d'Artois (sold at auction in 1907) and the Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, but none appear in the auction records for the last 35 years. Cohen-de Ricci 548-50; Ray French 5.
- Please note that the provenance for this lot is not Louis XV. This copy is bound in mid- to late 18th century red morocco with pastiche Louis XV arms.