Fables of La Fontaine, The
Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1884. Item #04501
The Fables of La Fontaine - One of 250 Numbered Copies Illustrated by Auguste Delierre
Finely Bound and Extra Illustrated With Over Two Hundred Additional Engravings
LA FONTAINE, Jean de. The Fables of La Fontaine. Translated from the French. With twenty-five original etchings by A. Delierre. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1884.
Edition De Luxe. One of 250 numbered copies (this being No. 206).
Extra-illustrated and extended from one volume into two.
Two large octavo volumes (10 7/16 x 7 1/4 inches; 265 x184 mm.). viii, 160; 161-304 pp. Title-page printed in red and black. With twenty-five full page etchings by Auguste Delierre (1829-1890). Complete with the small printed slip preceding the half-title, signed and numbered in black ink by Roberts Bros.
Extra-illustrated with 202 additional engravings related to the fables being presented (a few in color) including many by J.B. Oudry and other artists. Full listing of the additional engravings list supplied upon request.
Handsomely bound ca. 1940 in full crushed dark green morocco with multi-layered elaborate gilt borders, spines richly tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt ruled board edges, ornate gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, others uncut. Armorial bookplate of Verney on front p aste-downs. An exceptionally fine, profusely extra-illustrated example of the Fables of La Fontaine in a handsome binding.
The frontispiece in volume one is an original watercolor by Sears Gallagher showing a barnyard scene with a fox in Franciscan robes holding a bible and rosary listening to a learned rooster reading from a broadside. Sears Gallagher, Master Etcher and Watercolorist (1869-1955), studied under Samuel P.R. Triscott and Thomas Juglaris in Boston. He later traveled to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian under Jean Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. His works were exhibited by major galleries in New York and Boston.
"The present translation of La Fontaine's Fables is mainly that of Robert Thomson, who published in 1806 in Paris an edition of them in verse very nearly complete. This work is extremely rare. It is now reproduced after extensive and careful revision." (Preface).
Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional language.
He collected the 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. Divided into twelve books, there are 239 of the Fables, varying in length from a few lines to some hundred, those written later being as a rule longer than those written earlier. The first collection of Fables Choisies had appeared March 31, 1668, dividing 124 fables into six books over its two volumes. They were dedicated to "Monseigneur" Louis, le Grand Dauphin, the six-year-old son of Louis XIV of France and his queen consort Maria Theresa of Spain. By this time, La Fontaine was 47 and known to readers chiefly as the author of Contes, lively stories in verse, grazing and sometimes transgressing the bounds of contemporary moral standards. The Fables, in contrast, were completely in compliance with these standards. Eight new fables published in 1671 would eventually take their place in books 7–9 of the second collection. Books 7 and 8 appeared in 1678, while 9-11 appeared in 1679, the whole 87 fables being dedicated to the king's mistress, Madame de Montespan. Between 1682 and 1685 a few fables were published dealing with people in antiquity, such as "The Matron of Ephesus" and "Philemon and Baucis". Then book 12 appeared as a separate volume in 1694, containing 29 fables dedicated to the king's 12-year-old grandchild, Louis, Duke of Burgundy.