A superb copy of La Fontaine’s Fables engraved by Fessard,
preserved in its attractive contemporary morocco binding
with the supralibros of the seigneur de Champbonin.
Unique copy : 5 very rare plates that were refused,
done by Fessard, were added to this copy,
also enriched with a letter from the artist to the seigneur de Champbonin.
La Fontaine, Jean de. Fables choisies mises en vers par J. de La Fontaine. Nouvelle édition gravée en taille-douce. Les figures par le Sr Fessard. Le texte par le Sr Montulay. Dédiées aux enfants de France.
Paris, chez l’auteur, 1765-1775.
6 volumes 8vo [200 x 125 mm] bound in full red morocco, triple gilt fillets on the covers, supralibros in gilt in center, flat spine with floral ornaments in gilt, decorated leading edges, inner roll-stamp, gilt edges. A contemporary made-up binding.
This prestigious edition engraved by Fessard is the most beautiful illustrated edition of the Fables by La Fontaine printed in the 18th century with the one illustrated by Oudry and published 10 years before in folio format.
At the beginning of part II were added 5 plates which were turned down at the time and given to Champbonin by Fessard.
The plates, extremely rare, are unknown to Cohen.
“Sumptuous edition, entirely engraved with large figures, head and tail pieces for each Fable, according to the drawings made by Caresme, Desrais, le Clerc, Le Prince, Monnet, etc.” (Rahir)
Cohen, 551 ; Rochambeau, 37-40 ; Ray French, 61 ; Reynaud, Notes supplémentaires sur les Livres à gravures du XVIIIe siècle, 281 ; Rahir, La Bibliothèque de l’amateur, 822 ; Pichon, 612 ; Bulletin Morgand et Fatout, 9880 ; En français dans le texte, 105.
The illustrations include 6 engraved titles, and the title of the first volume is engraved recto-verso, a frontispiece on part I, 243 figures out of pagination, 243 vignettes and 226 tail pieces, made by Bardin, Bidault, Caresme, Dessais, Houel, Kobell, Leclère, Leprince, Loutherbourg, Meyer and Monnet.
The text was entirely engraved by Montulay and Drouet.
“Mister Fessard, engraver to the king, took it upon himself to engrave the Fables by La Fontaine in 6 volumes 8vo. He’s given 5 volumes to the general public, and the sixth will soon be released. It is the custom to present one copy of each volume to the princes and princesses of the Royal Family. He was paid in consequence for his expenses the sum of six hundred pounds from the Royal treasury when each of the 5 volumes were shown.
He begged his Majesty to grant him the same amount of six hundred pounds for the last volume. And Louis XVI was generous enough to accept and to write the word “bon” himself.” (Baron de Portalis)
“The publication of the Fables is a historical moment in the history of the genre. This masterpiece joins the major representatives of French classicism ; it received an immediate, and well-deserved, success.”
The signed handwritten letter by Fessard on the endleaf is addressed to “Mr Champbonin Premier Commis du Bureau de la Guerre” and dated September 19th, 1766.
“Monsieur, les épreuves doubles dans votre second volume des fables prouvera bien mieux le sentiment que je vous porte.”
A superb copy on Dutch paper, very pure, with wide margins, preserved in its attractive contemporary red morocco binding with a supralibros by Champbonin, enriched with a signed handwritten letter by Fessard and 5 very rare plates that were refused and given to Champbonin by the artist himself.
Provenance : Library of Louis Toussaint du Raget, seigneur de Champbonin, an enlightened bibliophile, with supralibros on the covers ; Library of Charles II, marquis de Châteauneuf, officier des galères, with armorial ex-libris on endleaf. (O. Hermal, pl. 1873)