First collected edition of La Fontaine’s Fables, the only one printed and corrected under the author’s direction. It is of the highest interest and of the greatest importance.
It contains 120 fables in original edition.
The last 3 volumes are in first edition; the first two, reprinted circa 1692 under the date of 1678, are the reprint of the 12mo edition of 1668.
“Only complete edition of La Fontaine’s Fables that was printed under the author’s eyes.” (Brunet, Manuel du Libraire, III, 751).
“This precious and famous edition is hard to find complete and in good condition, most copies, as Brunet notes, having passed through children’s hands.” (A. Claudin. Cat. Rochebilière, n°168).
Part III contains 41 new Fables and the dedicatory epistle to the Marquise of Montespan.
Part IV contains 39 new Fables with an epilogue.
Part V contains 29 new Fables.
It is illustrated with hundreds of engravings by Fr. Chauveau and by M. Guérard of which most of them are published for the first time.
“La Fontaine was hailed as the inventor of free verse. But, to tell the truth, this poet knew few rivals in the art of handling the French verse and there, as in this fusion of lyricism and realism, La Fontaine exceeds his time: that is why his success never weakened and remained universal; that’s why Taine was able to say that La Fontaine was ‘the supreme manifestation of French genius’”.
“Part III had two issues: in the first, the 7th verse of page 101 [Et sans cela nos gains seraient assez honnestes], has been omitted; it is reinstated in the second issue with a cancel mounted on guards.
In the first issue of part IV, at the end of the fable Le Singe et le Léopard, we read the last verse as: Bigarrez en dehors ne sont rien en dedans modified in the second issue in: N'ont que l'habit pour tous talens !
Part V, of which one can find very few copies dated 1693, had three editions under the same date: the first has the cypher of Barbin on the title; the second has a typographical fleuron; the third is regularly cyphered until the end, p. 230, and its composition is completely different.” (Tchemerzine).
Part III belongs here to the second issue, part IV to the first, part V to the third. These five volumes form the first collected edition of La Fontaine’s Fables.
The Rochebilière copy described by A. Claudin measured 157 to 158 mm in height depending on the volumes; this one measures 159 mm.
Very beautiful copy bound in blue morocco by Belz-Niedree towards 1865.