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Les Métamorphoses.

Traduction nouvelle avec le texte Latin, Suivie d'une analyse de l'explication des fables, de notes géographiques, historiques, mythologiques, et critiques, par M. G. T. Villenave; Ornée de gravures d'après les dessins de MM. Lebarbier, Monsiau, et Moreau.

Paris : 1806 [1820-21] Stock Code: 89363
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First edition, in the preferred quarto format, of Mathieu-Guillaume-Thérèse Villenave's beautifully illustrated translation. Villenave (1762-1846) originally practiced as a lawyer in Nantes and, during the Revolution, narrowly escaped execution in the rising in the Vendée in 1793; he was a noted bibliophile and amassed a substantial library. The great attraction of this edition is the work of its three principal illustrators: Le Barbier, Nicolas-André Monsiau and Moreau le Jeune. "This puzzling book was obviously intended to be an edition of some pretensions. The publishers offered a new translation, secured Didot as their printer, and promised "144 engravings, the designs for which have been entrusted to M. Le Barbier, Monsiau, and Moreau" (vol. I p. xi). Anyone unwary enough to rely on Cohen (columns 773-774) Guide le l'amateur de livres à gravures de XVIII siècle would be led to believe that the book was carried through as planned. In fact, only a part of the engravings were made from drawings by the artists named. The rest are of various journeyman illustrators. And though all volumes have 1806 on their title pages, some of the plates in volume four are dated 1820 and 1821. It is not clear why the edition foundered. The designs by Le Barbier, Monsiau, and Moreau are of high professional competence, if in an outmoded style this book is worth acquiring for its plates after the three original illustrators. They offer a comprehensive sampling of the work done by these masters in their later years" (Gordon N. Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book 1700-1914, 1986, pp. 153-54).

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4 volumes, quarto (305 x 220 cm). Contemporary French red half morocco-grained skiver, marbled sides, spines with four low raised bands, gilt floriate tool in two compartments, broad "Gothic arch" and floriate roll tools, marbled endpapers.


Engraved frontispiece in vol. I and 138 plates by Dambrun, Delaunay, Halbou and others after Le Barbier, Monsiau and Moreau le Jeune (with loose tissue guards); letterpress in French and Latin on facing pages.


Extremities of spines lightly rubbed, corners a little worn, general foxing of varying degrees but largely confined to margins, some offsetting from verso of plates. A very attractive set.


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