RICHLY ILLUSTRATED BY "THE LAST GREAT ROMANTIC ILLUSTRATOR": DORÉ’S FABLES OF LA FONTAINE
(DORÉ, Gustave, illustrator) LA FONTAINE, Jean de. Fables of La Fontaine. Translated into English Verse by Walter Thornbury. With Illustrations by Gustave Doré. London and New York: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, [circa 1870]. Thick folio (10 by 12-1/2 inches), contemporary full black pebbled morocco gilt, raised bands, all edges gilt. $2500.
Early edition of Gustave Doré’s illustrations for La Fontaine’s famous Fables, told with "a semi-pagan sentiment for nature," with frontispiece portrait of La Fontaine and 86 wonderful full-page wood-engravings and 243 in-text vignettes. Handsomely bound in full contemporary morocco.
"La Fontaine's fame rests on his Fables… told in a familiar persuasive style and with an inimitable naïveté and a semi-pagan sentiment for nature which make them delightful to all readers" (Harvey & Heseltine, 387). First published in French in in 58 weekly parts starting in November 1866, Doré's illustrated La Fontaine "was eagerly awaited" in an English language edition. Between 1867 and 1869, Cassell's issued five English editions, none with dates of imprint, varying only in sheet size. Beginning in 1868 Cassell reduced the size of the text block from 10 by 13 inches to 10 by 12-1/2 inches (the size of this copy, though slightly further reduced at the time of binding). "In those two and a half years, Doré went from being virtually unknown in England to being the most famous illustrator in the world" (Malan, 67). Of Doré, "one can hardly deny that he is not merely one of the most popular but also one of the greatest of all illustrators" (Ray, 327-28). Malan, 95, 283. Owner name stamped in gilt on front cover.
A fine, handsome copy.