Title: Fables Choisies. Illustrations de Oudry, 1755-1759
Author: Jean de La Fontaine
Publisher: Paris: Charles-Antoine Jombert for Desaint & Saillant and Durand
The first edition of Jean de la Fontaine’s Fables, as illustrated by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. Quoted by Ray to be “one of the most ambitious and successful of all illustrated books”, and one of the finest illustrated books produced in France, this work bears 275 full page engravings after Oudry, by Cochin, Tardieu, Prevost, Chedel, Lempereur, and others, along with numerous engravings vignettes, as well as head and tailpieces.
Of the illustrator Oudry, his career first began as a portraitist, later being inducted as a member of the Academie Royale in 1719 as a historical painter. Between 1729 and 1735 Oudry produced 276 sketches based on La Fontaine’s Fables, as patterns to use at the Gobelins Manufactory. The sketches were later bought by one financier Montenault, who Charles-Nicolas Cochin the Younger to redraw Oudry’s work for the publication. Once the first volume was produced in 1755, financial support from the wealthy and Louis XV allowed for the set to be completed within 4 years.
The engraved plate of “Le Singe et le Leopard features the lettering of “Le Leopard” on the banner, being the second state.
Four finely bound volumes in large folio, XXX+XVIII+124, II+135, IV+146, II+188 pages 70, 68, 68, and 69 engravings to each volume.
On note of condition, this these volumes are in fair to good shape, with rubbing and wear to the bindings, and cracking to the outer hinges of volumes 1,2, and 4, though the cords are holding firmly. Volume 3 has stressed joints. There is some foxing and toning to the pages.