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Prose and verse fables, and some of the earliest European combed marbled paper, in an armorial binding for William the Silent’s son-in-law

AESOP & BABRIUS.
Aesopi Phrygis fabulae elegantissimis eiconibus veras animalium species ad vivum adumbrantes. Gabriae Graeci fabellae lxiv [recté lxiii]. Haec omnia cum Latina interpretatione. Nunc postremùm excusa & accuratè recognita.
Paris, Jean Libert, 1623. 16mo. With a woodcut decoration on the title-page and woodcut decorated initials in the text.Contemporary French gold-tooled calf, sewn on 2 supports, each board with the coat-of-arms of Henri de La Tour (1555-1623), Duc de Bouillon and Prince of Sedan, who married the daughter of William the Silent, founding father of the Dutch Republic (with a French Ducal crown, the whole in a wreath of 2 laurel branches with berries), the flat spine divided into 4 fields, each with a central decoration, gilt edges. Marbled paste-downs (fine-toothed combed pattern in red, blue and white).
€ 2,750
Very rare 24mo edition of 150 prose fables by Aesop and 43 verse fables by Babrius (here called Gabrius) in Greek and Latin on facing pages, remotely based on the text of the illustrated humanistic editions published by Jean de Tournes in Lyons (Bodemann notes a 1570 edition, but the USTC records them back to 1550). While the existence of Aesop (ca. 620-ca. 584 BCE) as a story teller is attested in many early sources, the canon that appears under his name contains fables passed down orally and rendered in literary form by many authors over the centuries. Babrius wrote verse fables shortly before 200 CE that were later rendered in Greek prose and added to the Aesop canon. Although the title-page indicates that the fables are illustrated, the present edition never contains woodcuts: Libert apparently copied his title from one of the illustrated editions. He does include Maximus Planudess extensive account of Aesops life preceding the fables. The British Library and the Bibliothèque de lArsenal have the only other copies known, though the latter may have two (one described as a 12mo).
Although the earliest European marbled papers appear to have been made in or around southern Germany, they were not combed. Wolfe notes that the French first used marbled paper for bookbindings, and the present paste-downs (combed with teeth averaging 2 mm apart) closely resemble his earliest example of combed marbled paper (plate XV, no. 6 from a Paris book of 1622).
The arms on the binding are quartered, with an inescutcheon. It does not indicate tinctures, but in combination one can still identify them, giving 1: a semé of fleurs-de-lis as background to a four-turreted tower (De La Tour), here topped by a larger fleur-de-lis issuant; 2: a heraldic banner with 3 streamers hanging from rings (Counts of Auvergne) and the inescutcheon: 3 roundels (Counts of Boulogne). The Counts of Auvergne had born the quartered arms of La Tour and the Counts of Auvergne with the inescutcheon of the Counts of Boulogne since 1389 and these arms descended to Catharine de Medici (1519-1589) from her maternal grandfather, appearing in quarters 2 and 3 of her arms before she married King Henri II of France in 1547, when the title merged with the crown: daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/bsb00001427/image_13 and image_117 (in a French armorial of ca. 1550/55). With the Counts of Boulogne extinct, the arms passed to another branch of the family, descending to Henri de La Tour (1555-1623), who took the title Duc de Bouillon by marriage in 1591 and (later?) inherited the title Vicomte de Turenne from his father, adding these arms in the present quarters 3: bendy of 8 (Turenne), though here it looks like 10; and 4: a fess (Bouillon), here with double lines above and below. In 1595 he married Elisabeth van Oranje Nassau, daughter of William the Silent (Willem de Zwijger) (1533-1584). A 17th-century engraved portrait of Henri de La Tours son shows the same 5 bearings in a slightly different arrangement (La Tour in 1 & 4, Boulogne in 2, Turenne in 3 and Auvergne and Bouillon per pale in the inescutcheon): catalog.princeton.edu/catalog/10637765#view.
Early owner's inscription on title-page in ink: "Ex Bibliot D... de Montesquieu cat ...": since the Montesquieu arms bear no relation to that on the binding, this must be a later owner. Lacking the last leaf of the index, title-page cut short at the head (not affecting the text) and a small worm hole in the second half, sometime affecting a letter in the first line, but otherwise in good condition. Binding rubbed (not affecting the arms) and backstrip worn, a few small chips and holes and hinges cracked. A very rare fable book in a remarkable contemporary armorial binding, with the arms in very good condition.KVK & WorldCat (2 or 3 copies); cf. Bodemann, 29.2 (similar 1570 De Tournes ed.).
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