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LES AVENTURES DE TÉLÉMAQUE
Paris: Imprimerie de Monsieur [i.e., Pierre-François Didot], 1785. Hardcover. In a Fine Staggemeier and Welcher Binding, With a Very Large, Early, Edwards(?) Painting. 340 x 264 mm. mm (13 3/8 x 10 3/8"). 4 p.l., 305, [1] pp.; 2 p.l., 297, [3] pp. Two volumes bound in one. ELEGANT RED CONTEMPORARY STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, BY STAGGEMEIER & WELCHER, the covers with a wide gilt border composed of onlaid strips of blue goatskin tooled with a Greek-key roll, with a square green goatskin onlay at the corners tooled with a medallion, and with an inner frame composed of an onlaid citron goatskin band and large, graceful gilt impressions of flowers, foliage, and ears of wheat. Smooth spine divided into four unequal compartments by a strip of onlaid green goatskin tooled with a gilt pentaglyph and metope roll, lettered in the second compartment on a green goatskin label, and directly on the spine at the foot, the first compartment tooled with a face-in-the-sun, the third (elongated) compartment featuring a strange figure with a winged helmet holding festoons of flowers, balancing on top of a flower issuing from a large neoclassical vase, the vase in turn perched on a candelabrum, the edges of the boards and turn-ins tooled with gilt rolls, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. WITH A FORE-EDGE PAINTING, VERY PROBABLY CONTEMPORARY, OF TWO BOATS SAILING ON A LAKE, WITH A STATELY HOME IN THE BACKGROUND. With engraved printer's device on title pages and two frontispiece portraits of the author engraved by Dequevauviller, one in an early state before letters, and one printed on India paper and mounted. Brunet II, 1215. A hint of wear to corners, spine a little darkened, slight variation in color of the leather covers, other minor defects, but the extremely handsome binding entirely solid, with nothing approaching a significant fault, and the covers especially lustrous with bright gilt. Intermittent pale foxing in the text (a few gatherings with faint overall browning or more noticeably foxed), but the leaves remarkably fresh (they crackle as you turn them), very clean, and printed within vast margins. Fénelon's masterwork is presented here in a sumptuous package in terms of its beautiful binding, its historically interesting fore-edge painting, and its stately printed page. Like Kalthoeber and several other German binders, Staggemeier and Welcher came to England to satisfy the fashionable need among gentry and nobility for elegant bindings. In partnership in London from about 1799 to 1810, the two oversaw "one of the most prolific workshops producing 'extra' quality work in London." (Maggs Catalogue 1212) They were known for bindings with typically tasteful and often elaborate gilt decoration, and they were among the very best at producing these highly finished volumes. Our binding is unsigned, but many of the same tools can be found on signed and related examples, the face-in-the-sun being a particular favorite. The large scroll tools around the inside of the border were used on a copy of "The Memoirs of Count Grammont" (1794) from the collection of Otto Schäfer, (sold Sotheby's New York, 1 November 1995, lot 111) and on Birch, "The Heads of Illustrious Persons" (1756), illustrated in Foot, "The Henry Davis Gift," II, 198. The scrolls also appear on two vellum bindings, along with the strange figure on the spine, one being on a copy of "Campi Phlegræi" (1779) from the J.R. Abbey collection (sold Sotheby's, 22 June 1965, lot 368), and secondly on an album of drawings from the Estelle Doheny collection (sold Christie's New York, 18 October 1988, lot 1596). This style of binding, and especially the treatment of the covers with the colored onlays and scroll and wheat tools, had a far-reaching influence and was closely followed by binders such as Krauss in Vienna and Zaidler in St. Petersburg. Another copy of this edition of Télémaque, said to be bound by Staggemeier and Welcher in blue goatskin and with a fore-edge painting of a chateau, was in the Doheny collection and was sold on 17 October 1988 as lot 1320. The size of the present volume gave the painter of our fore-edge scene considerable room to create a pleasing, detailed panorama containing a stately home surrounded by weeping willows on the left, and a lake before it and to the right. On the water are two sailing vessels next to each other, the larger one occupied by a crew wrestling with the sails, while a third craft, a dinghy with several passengers, bobs alongside. The marine action is set against a wooded shore and fluffy white clouds in the sky above. We believe that this painting may very well be early, perhaps even contemporaneous with the binding. It has many of the qualities associated with fore-edge scenes from the final years of the 18th century and first years of the 19th, particularly those done by Edwards of Halifax, the firm generally credited with creating and popularizing this especially pleasing decorative innovation. In fact, there is no reason to resist the hypothesis that our painting might well have been done for Edwards, especially since it looks like known paintings from that celebrated firm and because there was an active collaboration between Edwards and Didot, the printer here. Our painting has stock Edwards elements (pastoral English countryside with stately home on the left, body of water on the right, bushy trees as dressing); it was done (or at least is found today) in pastel colors; and it appears on a volume printed by Didot, a supplier for Edwards of numerous books that ended up with fore-edge paintings. Whatever the origin of the painting, the present volume is a lovely artifact that reflects the highest level of achievement in bookmaking of the period. The text here is a classic work of French literature. François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon (1651-1715) was a Catholic theologian, writer, and former royal tutor best known for the present book, which was on the surface a retelling of the story of Ulysses' son Telemachus, but was in fact a subtle attack on the absolute monarchy of France under Louis XIV. Although often seen with plates, Brunet informs us that the book was sold both with and without engravings.
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Mediev]
Last Found On: 2013-11-29           Check availability:      Biblio    

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