Friday, January 3, 2014

Fabulous Fables

An illustration of a series of animals and figures surrounding a man's bust.This past year we were able to acquire a spectacular edition of La Fontaine's Fables Choisies. Published in Paris between 1755 and 1759, the four volume set is one of the most lavishly illustrated literary texts of the 18th century. It is a testament to La Fontaine's standing in French culture at the time.

An illustration showing a portrait of a man within a decorative frame.The illustrator, Jean Baptiste Oudry, gets almost equal billing in the first volume. While the title page only mentions La Fontaine, Oudry gets his own frontispiece alongside one of a bust of La Fontaine being unveiled by Aesop. Oudry was a natural choice. A Rococo painter fashionable at the time, he specialized in paintings of animals and nature scenes. He must have found particular inspiration in La Fontaine's fables with their talking animals and pastoral settings.

An illustration showing a crowned man seated on an eagle's back among clouds. On the ground are several other animal, including an elephant and lion.
The books is wonder to behold. The 280 full-page plates carry you into the extravagance of 18th century France while providing a suitably fabulous accompaniment for La Fontaine's texts.

Ask for Rare PG1808.A1 1755