Paris: Gautier, Quillau pere & fils, and Lamesle, 1746.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Elephant Folio - over 15 - 23" tall. Near Fine. Item #002642
Large folio (517 x 361 mm and 758 x 539 mm). Two parts in two volumes with 20 fine mezzotint plates printed in four colours. Part I with general title printed in red and black, printed part title, dedication leaf, advertisement/privilege leaf, 9 pp. of explanatory text, additional advertisment leaf and 9 plates; part II with 11 life-size plates and 11 pp. of explanatory text, with each leaf bound before its corresponding plate. Old vellum over pasteboard (recased and resewn, some skilful repairs, minor staining and wear). Very little marginal browning and occasional spotting of text and plates, small minor repairs on versos of large plates, some minor marginal dampstaining and wear in second volume. Provenance: Pierre Amalric (bookplate to front pastedown of part I), sold at Christie's NY (sale 9232, 9 June 1999, lot 42, $23,000). All in all a fine copy, the plates in bright colours and without the aging varnish found in some copies. ----
Choulant-Frank, p. 270-74; NLM/Blake p.169; Singer 1-20; Wellcome III, p. 97; Franklin, Early Color Printing, 1977, pp. 43-44; Garrison-Morton 398; Lilien, Jacob Christoph Le Blon, 1985, pp. 145-46.
FIRST EDITION. Gautier's first project was the production of 8 prints of the face, neck, head, tongue and larynx, which he issued in 1745, followed one year later by a second group of 12 mostly larger prints showing muscles of the pharynx, torso, arms and legs. A year later he issued the two works together under the general title 'Myologie complette'. Gautier made the drawings and the mezzotint plates for all these images from cadavers dissected by Joseph Guichard Duverney, lecturer in anatomy at the Jardin du Roi. "The dedication and copyright notices make no bones about Gautier's claims as inventor and skilled practitioner in this new art of colour printing. Duverney, the academic partner, signs the dedication (to Lapeyronie, the king's doctor) asserting that colour printing can nowhere make a greater contribution to scientific understanding than in anatomy" (Franklin). Among the plates in part II is the fascinating 'Ange Anatomique,' "the muscles of her back stripped out like an angel's wing, while she, with hair arranged neatly in the style of her day, looks back over her shoulder in a spirit of calm enquiry, showing the healthy complexion of an attractive face" (Franklin).
Jacques Christophe Le Blon invented the three-color method of color printing in mezzotint. For the printing process, he obtained a royal patent in England from King George I in 1719, and also published a small book describing the process in 1725. His attempt to commercialise his process through a company called The Picture Office failed, and he eventually re-established himself in Paris, obtaining a privilege in 1737, and in 1739 a twenty-year patent for France for the use of his color-printing process. In 1740, Le Blon advertised that he was taking subscriptions for a treatise on anatomy illustrated with 60 plates printed in color. However, before he could do much work on this project he died in 1741, leaving only one anatomical plate, which was completed and published by Jean Robert in 1742. Immediately after Le Blon's death, a printer and engraver who had worked briefly for Le Blon, Jacques-Fabien Gautier (1716-1785), who would later add "d'Agoty" to his name, claimed to have enhanced Le Blon's process by adding black (though Le Blon had previously used a black plate on occasion), and obtained the French royal privilege for color printing for thirty years. However, the heirs of Le Blon objected, and in 1742 the King withdrew Gautier's privilege. In 1742 Gautier purchased the privilege from Le Blon's heirs. Why Le Blon thought the color-printing process was appropriate for anatomy is unclear. Perhaps he sensed that there was a market for a new style of books on human anatomy. Whatever Le Blon's motivation, when Gautier set out to commercialize color printing after Le Blon's death he decided to exploit the market for books on anatomy and natural history. Over the next thirty years Gautier would draw, engrave, and print in color a series of books which were as radically original and dramatic in their size and artistic composition as they were original in their manner of production. Though all of Gautier's books contained some explanatory text, it was overwhelmed by the power of the images, and in turn, whatever science might have been shown in the images was overwhelmed by the drama of the color and the composition. (Lilien).
*Gautier intended the varnished versions of his images, which he offered at an additional charge, to resemble oil paintings - an artistic quality not attempted previously in anatomical illustration. The varnish, however, ages poorly, and those deluxe copies are now often in poor condition. Unvarnished plates in bright state, as here, are now more desirable. This copy is also unusual in that the life-size plates 10-20 normally found folded are here bound with their smaller format text leaves in a second larger volume. This has the advantage that the folds are not within the image.
Price: 39,000 € * convert currency
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