A precious edition, the first illustrated in Lyons, of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Baudrier, Bibliographie Lyonsnaise, XI-223 ; Mortimer-Harvard, French, n°397 ; Brun, Le Livre français illustré de la Renaissance, 262 ; Du Plessis, Essai bibliographique sur les différentes éditions des œuvres d’Ovide, n°25 ; Sander II, n°5330 for the illustration of 1497 ; not in Brunet, Murray and Rothschild.
« ‘The Metamorphoses’ is the title of several works from Antiquity which, under an epic form, relate the transformations of men into animals, sources, trees and various objects which lean on folk and mythical traditions about determined characters.
‘Ovid’s Metamorphoses is an epic Latin poem composed of 15 books. The work (one of the most significant of Ancient Rome literature) contains, in addition to 12 000 verses, the account of 246 fables on metamorphoses, chronologically arranged from the chaos to Julius Caesar’s metamorphose into a star…
The leanings towards gallantry, a spicy tone, a certain atheism, the indifference to political life are evidence of this golden imperial youth, of which the poet was one of the most honest, sought-after and acclaimed, representatives and for which he wrote all his poems…
The vitality of the work is infinite; the Middle Ages judged it to be equivalent to Virgil’s works; in the 13th century, there finally is a real rebirth of Ovid’s works. In Italy, France, Germany, it became the official love guide. It had a significant influence on the English poet Chaucer, on all the Italian humanist poetry, on the belles-lettres and on the poems by Franco-Dutch philologists. » (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, IV, 544).
It is illustrated, in first issue, with 16 beautiful woodcuts, including one repeated.
The first two were contemporary enhanced with yellow.
They decorate the title printed in red and black and the beginning of each of the 15 books, inside a wide engraved framing.
This beautiful suite of 15 woodcuts is attributed to the city painter, Guillaume II Leroy who then realized a very free and reduced interpretation of woodcuts drawn for the illustration of the edition of the Metamorphoses printed by Giovanni Rosso for Luc Antonio Giunta in Venice in 1497 and whose style announced the famous engravings of The Dream of Poliphilus in 1499.
As stated by Brun (Le Livre français illustré de la Renaissance), this inspiration is interpreted « with a very French good-heartedness » by the artist G. Leroy. Some splendid historiated initials complete this beautiful ornamentation. Among the striking illustrated books by G. Leroy also appear the Holy Bible of 1513 at Gueynard’s and the « Catalogus gloriae mundi » by Barthélémy de Chassenux (1529).
Ovid’s Metamorphoses were a spectacular success among the well-read public. Thus in France, in the 16th century, more than sixty editions can be counted. This edition from 1510 has a special importance as it is the first illustrated to be published in Lyons, and also the first to be enlarged by the « Arguments » by Lanctantius. These summaries at the head of each fable will be afterwards systematically reprinted in their ulterior editions.
There is also for the first time the commentary by Lavinius of Book I demonstrating how much they are useful for Christianism: they glorify the virtues of heroes and stigmatize the bestiality of vice.
A precious copy, extremely rare in very pleasant original condition, of this beautiful and important illustrated edition of a great literary text which had a considerable success in the 16th century.