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La Grande Danse Macabre des Hommes et des Femmes, Historiée & renouvellée de vieux Gaulois, en langage le plus poli de notre temps.
Troyes: Jean-Antoine Garnier, [ca. 1770-1780]. 4to (220 x 169 mm). 76 pp. Roman type, double columns. 60 woodcut illustrations, including title-cut, of which 44 oblong and half-page, the others various sizes, including a few repeats; one block signed "VERNIE." Type-ornament head and tail-pieces and a border. Discreetly repaired tears to upper blank corner of fol. C1, occasional foxing as usual. Modern binding (by Lobstein) of 18th-century marbled paper over boards, red morocco longitudinal title label on backstrip with uneven, deliberately "dancing" gold-tooled letters, 3 holes in gutters from the original stab-stitching. A large copy, with deckle edges. *** A classic of the chapbook publications known as the Bibliothèque bleue, after their originally blue paper covers. This 18th-century Dance of Death is illustrated with woodcut copies of the illustrations from Guy Marchant's editions of the Danse macabre, printed between 1485 and 1492. The present undated edition, one of at least three from the Garnier press, is often misdated to 1728, based on the privilege, for this and other chapbook titles, reprinted verbatim from the edition issued in 1728 by Jean-Antoine Garnier's grandfather Pierre. Born in 1742, Jean-Antoine Garnier was active as a printer-bookseller from 1766 to 1780. Earlier Troyes editions were published by members of the Oudot family, founders of the Troyes chapbook series. Brunet (II, 495) noted that the Troyes chapbook publishers were suppliers of popular books to all the fairs in France; hence the many Troyes editions of this eternally evocative illustrated book. The Danse macabre proper ends on page 53 and is followed by several other verse texts: La Mort menace l'humain Lignage; Le Débat du corps et de l'âme, illustrated with a pair of woodcuts, printed twice; La douloureuse complainte de l'âme damnée; L'Exhortation de bien vivre et de bien mourir, with a large cut of Death carrying a coffin in a graveyard, also used on p. 2 to illustrate the "Author"; La Vie du mauvais Ante-Christ; Les quinze signes [preceding the Last Judgment]; and Le Jugement. The text of the original French Danse macabre was heavily altered during the course of the 17th century, as were, no doubt, these additional verse texts; thus the text of this edition differs greatly from that published in editions up to and including the Troyes 1641 edition of Nicolas Oudot (transcribed on Martin Hagstrøm's website). But the text is mainly a support to the woodcuts, in which Death appears as artfully posed pairs of cadavers, many with their lower torsos sliced open showing their intestines, arriving to take away those whose time has come, from every walk of life and of every age and social class. These illustrations retained their power and grim fascination throughout the centuries, and still do. Arthur Hind incorrectly claimed (Introduction to a History of Woodcut II: 647) that a number of the woodcuts of the Garnier editions were printed from the 15th-century blocks used in Marchant's editions. Those original woodcuts, attributed to Pierre le Rouge, were based on manuscripts reproducing an early 15th-century mural in the Cimitière des Innocents in Paris, painted on a wall which was destroyed in 1669. The Le Rouge blocks were handed down to his son Guillaume, and thence to Guillaume's cousin Nicolas le Rouge, who used them in his own editions in Troyes in the 1520s and 1530s. Many of these blocks survived to the mid-17th-century, when they resurfaced in the 1641 edition of Nicolas Oudot, but later editions, including this one, are illustrated with copies of the original blocks, and often copies of copies. (When a block was lost, it ceased to be copied, and that iconographic theme disappeared from subsequent editions.) Two of the cuts in this edition were indeed printed from 15th-century blocks, from Marchant's editions of the Compost et kalendrier des bergers: that of the souls of the damned in hell, on p. 26, and the portrait of the author, on p. 33, which originally represented the month of April; both have damaged or missing borders. Some of the woodcut copies are quite exact: for example, the second of the two nearly identical blocks of the African (Moor) sounding a horn, on pages 25 and 27, is a very close copy of the cut used in Nicolas Le Rouge's ca. 1510 and 1531 editions (the 1510 edition, Bechtel D-53, is reproduced in Christie's sale catalogue of the Vershbow library, part 2, 10 April 2013, lot 155, and the Arsenal copy of the 1531 edition is digitized on Gallica). There are other instances of two different blocks of the same illustration: the title cut of the four cadaver-musicians, for example, is repeated on p. 54, but what appears to be the same illustration on page 3 is from a different, and better, block. A possible explanation for these duplications lies in the acquisition, in the late 1760s, by either Jean-Antoine Garnier himself or his father Jean Garnier (sources differ) of the Oudot premises at the Rue du Temple in Troyes, purchased from Jean IV Oudot's widow (that address appears in the imprint of this edition, which was therefore published later). Along with the house Jean Garnier acquired the Oudot stock, which would have included the block used on page 3. (Martin Hagstrøm speculates that Jean-Antoine Garnier used the inferior block on the title-page out of respect for his grandfather, who had commissioned it for his 1728 edition.) Morin, Catalogue descriptif de la Bibliothèque bleue de Troyes, 434; Nisard, Histoire des livres populaires II: 284-311; Fairfax Murray French 108; cf. Minns catalogue (Illustrated catalogue of the notable collection of Miss Susan Minns of Boston, Mass. New York: American Art Association, 1922), 143 (one of three undated editions with Jean-Antoine Garnier's imprint). See also Martin Hagstrøm's website on the Dance of Death,, for information on the text and blocks of the Troyes editions.
      [Bookseller: Musinsky Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2017-10-24           Check availability:      Direct From Seller    


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