The collections by Lagniet known by bibliographers are rare. Brunet mentions 4 copies of which none is complete. The composition of the few known copies differs. The collation of the present copy, composed of three numbered suites, is as follows: - First book : Proverbes moraux: 42 plates; - Second book: Proverbes joyeux et plaisans: 47 plates; - Third book: La vie des Gueux: 30 plates; that is to say a total of 119 copper engravings in first state.
This set forms a document of an incredible and unequalled detailed nature about the plodding and entertaining life of the lower classes in the heart of the 17th century: turner, strolling musicians, beggars, glazier, carter, hosier, river fishing, feasts, dances, blacksmiths…
In his study about manners entitled Mœurs et la caricature en France, John Grand-Carteret is enthusiastic about Lagniet’s Proverbes: « Not only we see passing before our eyes an important period of history, taken in more intimate details compared to Abraham Bosse’s engravings always a bit pompous, but we can also follow the development of the study of manners thanks to those funniness and jokes. » With Lagniet, we dive into the daily universe, the ups and downs of life and the omnipresence of scourges that were devastating Europe, the plague, the war and famine. Beggars, craftsmen, shopkeepers, middle-class people and noblemen crowd in these Proverbes.
Each plate is littered with proverbs, sayings, popular terms and sometimes coarse ones, that express with a lot of realism the contemporary popular sphere, full of maxims and terms including many that vanished.
Burin engraver, caricaturist and editor, Jacques Lagniet (1620-1672) excels in this collection in creating an illustration of a great liveliness and steadiness of the line in the movement that, joined to the highly evocative vocabulary forms a set of a very personal originality and mind.
A precious copy of one of the most peculiar collections of prints in the history of engraving, contemporary bound in vellum by the book lover who composed it. Most of the known copies were composed later, generally in the 19th century, and therefore are in later bindings. Such a collection, contemporary formed, finely bound in vellum is especially remarkable. It comes from H. Destailleur’s collection with ex libris. Only two French public Libraries seem to own a collection gathering plates of these three suites by Lagniet : B.n.F. and Bibliothèque de Rouen.