Two very rare, but related items: 1. The complete three-volume 1838 Gil Blas di Santillano with all 300 accompanying engravings of Bartolomeo Pinelli, and 2. two hundred and seventy-seven (of 300) loose plates of Pinelli, as issued from the printer, in the printer's wraps, as they would have been sold at the bookshop, or to the publisher of the Gil Blas work.
The Pinelli engravings are prolific, with a handful every few pages. It seems almost like a modern graphic novel. They capture an 18th century errant bourgeois life with remarkable variety. There's men with peg legs, cooks, rich men with chimpanzees, bedroom life, drama, friendship, travel, romance, etc.. A rich study could be made on the plates alone.
And on that note, regarding the production of books, it's quite special to find the plates in the wrapper of the printer. This is how they would have left the printer's to go to either the book-seller, or possibly, in this case it might have been the publisher of the book. It was more common, in that period, for the books to go to the book-seller as gatherings of printed paper. Then, at purchase, the buyer would have his bindery complete a binding (if money allowed, one that would match their library). At the rear of these three volumes there is a directory, for the binder, telling them which plate should accompany which page.
The printing of this work is special, on thick laid paper (the printed work), with chain lines. The plates are on equally thick woven paper.
Rare, I find only one copy in the world's libraries, held at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma (see OCLC number 954860423; and there are not duplicate OCLC numbers for the work). Also, no copies are for sale at the time of this listing, and exact word searches for this title, "Pinelli" and "1838" reveal very little has been written cataloged about this work.
Pinelli also produced 150 engravings for Dante in 1824. One copy of those prints (only) are currently for sale at $3000 (Vialibri search).
Physical Attributes -
Each volume measures approx. 34 x 26 x 5 cm, signed in fours. Hardcover bindings with calf spines and corners ruled in blind with a leafy pattern, and with decorative paper covering the boards. Spines tooled in gilt with various greek motifs, several central florets, and the title, volume and "Stampe Del Pinelli" in gilt. 300 illustrations in the book, counted, complete. 277 of 300 loose plates (see condition). Decorative endpapers.
Gil Blas is related to Lesage's play Turcaret (1709). In both works, Lesage uses witty valets in the service of thieving masters, women of questionable morals, cuckolded yet happy husbands, gourmands, ridiculous poets, false savants, and dangerously ignorant doctors to make his point. Each class and each occupation becomes an archetype.
See pictures. Books are used and show edge wear, sunning to spines, some board rub on the leather, etc.. Overall the bindings are doing well, the joints and hinges good. It looks like the edges have been re-cut since 1838 as they look fresher. Paper with a little toning. Foxing throughout, as is typical to this era of paper; worst at pages that face endpapers (title pages, last pages). 2" blue pencil mark on 1st plate (light). Plate 16 corrected to 15 in graphite at number. Pl17 with crease. 60-70 pl number corrected in graphite, all present. Paper printed on foxed a little more than plates. Light moisture mark at top-edge through v3, sometimes intrudes on printing. All 300 plates present (and counted personally) in books. Of loose plates, 277 of 300 are present; missing 1-20, 48, 299-300. Because loose some of them have sucked in some moisture from the edges. Some of them have some damage at edges. At plate area most plates are near perfect, and there is very little foxing.
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