“PLAYFULLY CAPRICIOUS”: LA FONTAINE’S TALES AND NOVELS, ILLUSTRATED AND HANDSOMELY BOUND
LA FONTAINE, Jean de. Tales And Novels. London: Privately Printed for Members of the Aldus Society, 1903. Two volumes. Octavo, early 20th-century three-quarter blue morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut. $1200.
Limited illustrated edition, number 20 of only 250 copies, of La Fontaine’s ribald retellings of comic Italian tales, with a hand-colored frontispiece portrait of La Fontaine and nine engraved illustrations, each in two states, one on Japan vellum. Handsomely bound.
“A lover of nature, of keen intelligence, power of observation and poetic genius” (Oxford Companion to French Literature, 386), Jean de La Fontaine, best known for his popular animal fables enjoyed by generations of children, penned stories in a decidedly different vein with his Contes et nouvelles en vers. “The first [of the tales] was published in 1664, the last posthumously. He borrowed them mostly from Italian sources, in particular Giovanni Boccaccio… The essence of nearly all his Contes lies in their licentiousness… The accent of La Fontaine the narrator enlivens the story with playfully capricious comments, explanations and digressions” (Britannica).
Interiors fine; a few minor rubs to extremities of bindings. A handsome set.