J.J. Grandville illustrator, with the rare Tome III of plates. 1838 to 1840 Fables de la Fontaine, complete in three volumes. 240 plates.


Complete, bound-to-match, three volume, first edition set of the Fables de la Fontaine, as illustrated in 240 plates by J.J. Grandville; the third volume, 120 plates (completing the work with a Grandville illustration dedicated to each fable), was completed in 1840 and issued as a supplement; it is quite rare.

The Rarity of Tome III -

Worldcat lists only two copies, one at the Wellcome Library in London, and the other at the BNF, in Paris. OCLC 26924743 (Wellcome) and 921516411 (BNF); BNF reference FRBNF30715976. I also found a copy at the Bibliotheques de Nancy, in the Collection Jean-Baptiste Thiery-Solet - Res. 10 795 (3). All three copies can be found scanned online.

A copy sold at the Livres Anciens et Modernes Paris sale of 21 Novembre 2012, Lot 160 for 750 Euro.

The 1892 Bulletin de la librarie Damascene Morgand, Issue 5, p. 495 states "Le tome troisieme se compose exclusivement du titre, d'une table et de 120 nouvelles figures de Grandville. Tres-rare (very rare)."

The 1925 Le Tresor du Bibliophile Romantique et Moderne, 1801-1875, Volume 3 by Leopold Carteret has a curious note (page 358), "tome III , elle est encadrée ; le dos ornementé porte la date de 1840 . Ce volume - album des 120 gravures nouvelles , paru en 52 livraisons sous couvertures jaunes , est le complément indispensable de l'édition de 1838 qui forme ainsi un bel ensemble , de la plus grande rareté quand il est de premier tirage."

Translated - "Tome III, it is framed; the ornamented back bears the date 1840. This volume-album of 120 new engravings, published in 52 deliveries under yellow covers, is the essential complement to the 1838 edition which thus forms a beautiful set, of the greatest rarity in first edition."

It seems unlikely that there were only 52 copies produced. I don't think I fully understand what Carteret was stating.

About Fontaine's Fables (in extreme brief) -

Jean de La Fontaine collected fables from a wide variety of sources, both Western and Eastern, and adapted them into French free verse. They were issued under the general title of Fables in several volumes from 1668 to 1694 and are considered classics of French literature. Humorous, nuanced and ironical, they were originally aimed at adults but then entered the educational system and were required learning for school children.

About Grandville -

Though the designs of Grandville are occasionally unnatural and absurd, they usually display keen analysis of character and marvellous inventive ingenuity, and his humour is always tempered and refined by delicacy of sentiment and a vein of sober thoughtfulness. He suffered increasingly from grave mental problems and died on 17 March 1847. He is buried in the Cimetière Nord of Saint-Mandé just outside Paris.

Bibliographic Info -

Per Leopold Carteret (Epoque Romantique, Livres Illustres du XIXe siecle, 1927, p. 357-9) there were two print runs of the first editions of volumes 1 and 2; this volume 1 and 2 are from the second run, with Fournier as printer and a chess board design at the xiii V1 initial.

Tome III was produced after the success of the first two. In the first two volumes Grandville's illustrations only accompanied half the fables. The 1840 Tome III is simply 120 plates, for the fables that lacked illustration in volumes 1 and 2.

The Avid de L'Editeur, in Tome III, states (translated), "The illustrations of La Fontaine's Fables by M. Grandville received the most favorable reception from the public. The many admirers of the poet have found in the artist's compositions the interpretation, as ingenious as it is skillfully rendered, of the moral sense of the fable; with younger readers or those less familiar with the inimitable productions of the fabulist, the application of customs and customs in real life has been a powerful aid to the intelligence of allegory."

"… Hence also the requests that have been addressed to us by most of our subscribers so that to the original illustration, composed of one hundred and twenty subjects, come to join that of one hundred and twenty other fables."

"…By delivering this new collection to the public, we dare to hope that in terms of composition and design, as well as those of engraving and printing, they will judge it, if not superior to the first, at least equally worthy of its goodwill."

Plates engraved on wood, after Grandville's illustrations, by Piaud, Guillaumot, Adolphe Besi , Sears, Laisné, Godard, Brevière, Verdeil, Rambert, Quartley, Chauchefoin, Dujardin, Cherrier, Lacoste et fils ainé, Stypul kowski, Hans, etc.

Physical Attributes -

Each volume measures approx. 24.7 x 17.3 x 2.5 cm (tome I is thicker). Spines and corners leather ruled with gilt fillet; boards covered by marbled paper. Spines with five raised bands; one compartment with the title in gilt, and one compartment with the tome number in gilt on red morocco, raised bands rolled with gilt dentelle tool. Endpapers decorative marbled paper. Illustrated. 240 full-page plates. Also, a number of initials, headerpieces, footpieces, etc. A very attractive work that enjoyed much popularity.

Condition -

See pictures. Bindings have some wear at edges, sunning to spines, and a little rubbing.

Unfortunately, foxed throughout all three volumes; some pages worse than others, see pictures. Many bookseller notes on blank front unpaginated endpapers of V1. Text block not trimmed, just opened, volumes 1 and 2 have varying margins since the type leaves were smaller than the plates; this maintained the size of the plates. Some of the leaves have a chipped edge or corner due to opening. Occasional dog-eared page. Occasional moisture mark at the bottom edge of the type plates, no text affected. V1 from 104 to end tip of top corner missing (mouse nibble?).

Upper-corner chip to tip throughout V2 and V3 also; perhaps they were stacked before being bound.

Less foxing in V3 but still extant.

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