"THE SUNSHINE OF PURE IMAGINATION": VERY RARE 19TH-CENTURY ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF PERRAULT'S "MOTHER GOOSE" STORIES, ONE OF ONLY TEN COPIES ON VERGÉ WITH AN EXTRA SUITE OF THE PLATES
PERRAULT, Charles (DESANDRE, Jules-Marie, illustrator). Les Contes de Perrault. Paris: Theodore Lefevre, circa 1855. Royal octavo, contemporary three-quarter crimson morocco, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edge gilt. $8800.
Very rare mid-19th-century French illustrated edition of "the basis for the modern canon of fairy tales," with engraved frontispiece and 11 engraved plates by Lefrancq after Desandré, numerous in-text wood-engraved vignettes, and wood-engraved borders on every page. This is copy number 5 of only ten copies on Vergé paper, with two states of the full-page engravings, one of each a mounted proof before letters on Chine.
Inspired by the fables of La Fontaine, Perrault began writing his own. His Contes began their career in 1695 "as a five-story presentation manuscript dedicated to Princess Élizabeth-Charlotte, Louis XIV's niece" (Clute & Grant, 752). When first published two years later, the book contained eight stories. Perrault's Contes—"La Belle au bois dormant" (Sleeping Beauty), "Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Red Riding-Hood), "La Barbe bleue" (Blue Beard), "Le Maistre Chat, ou le Chat botté" (Puss in Boots), "Les Fées" (The Fairies), "Cendrillon" (Cinderella), "Riquet à la Houppe" (Ricky with the Tuft) and "Le Petit Poucet" (Tom Thumb)—"provided the basis for the modern canon of fairy tales" (Bottigheimer, 3). "The backdrop of his fairy tales is a combination of an old and beloved France, of courtly manners and costumes and the sunshine of pure imagination" (Meigs, 112). These original eight classic tales are all present in this collection, which also includes "Peau d'Ane (en prose)" (Donkey Skin, in prose), "Les Souhaits Ridicules" (The Ridiculous Wishes), "L'Adroite Princesse" (The Discreet Princess), and "Peau d'Ane (en verse)" (Donkey Skin, in verse). This copy includes two states of the frontispiece and ten full-page engravings, one final and one a mounted proof before letters. With Preface by J.T. de Saint-Germain. Text in French. Gumuchian 4446: "Édition recherchée et peu commune." Evidence of bookplate, faint library stamps on text block edges.
Text generally quite clean, with only the occasional spot of foxing; plates clean and fine, with crisp impressions. A few minor rubs to extremities of desirable contemporary morocco binding. An excellent copy of this very rare issue.