Les Poesies d'Anacreon de Theos & celles de Sapho...& Autres Poesies tirees de differents Auteurs, nouvellement traduites...par Le S. J.B.F.C.D.D.M.

ANACREON  (1761)


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Stencilled borders and ornaments in red and brown ink throughout, with additional details inked by hand. 

4to (205 x 155mm). MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER. 193 leaves, numbered thus: [xiv],1-67, 67bis-68, 68bis-131, 138-210pp, [1]f, [xliv (last blank)], 213-326pp, [3 (blank)]ff. Contemporary mottled calf with triple fillet in gilt on covers, spine richly gilt in compartments with red morocco label, title lettered in gilt, marbled edges (covers worn, extremities bumped with pasteboard visible and splitting, spine chipped at head and tail, hinges weak but holding). 

[France], 1761.  

bw 80-81 small ms slip

A beautifully written and illustrated manuscript volume of unpublished translations, in French, of the works of Anacreon, Sappho and other Greek writers, with highly unusual stencilled illustrations. The work begins with the odes of Anacreon and is followed by his epigrams; poetic writing about Anacreon by other writers; the works of Sappho; poetry about Sappho by others; and two volumes of works by others - Theocritus, Moschus, Symmias, Solon, Rhianus, Naumachius, Archilochus, Bacchylides and Aristotle. The translations are accompanied by extensive commentaries in French. 

This manuscript is visually striking. Titles for each section are enclosed in crisp, elaborately stencilled borders of floral ornament and flourishes in red ink. Intricate floral vignettes end each section and small, geometric and arabesque ornaments in red and brown ink are littered throughout. The impact of the stencilled, vibrant red borders and ornaments is further heightened by inked shadows and detail, added in freehand, that lend definition and depth. To find stencilling of this type, and to this extent in a secular work is unusual. In Europe, in particular in France at this time, stencilling appears to have been used predominantly for liturgical texts, although 'letter-makers' did trade in Paris in the later eighteenth century: Benjamin Franklin ordered a brass stencil set from maker Jean Gabriel Bery in 1781, which included end- and border-pieces and custom-made ornaments; the Malo father and son of Paris, 'faiseurs de caracteres' 'make founts in capital and small characters of all kinds...with all kinds of vignettes' (JGI Breitkopf, eighteenth-century typographer). These vignettes, or border pieces, were long and rectangular with one line of decoration cut out of them; thus borders like those found on title pages here would likely have been constructed from four individual stencils. Gilles Filleau des Billettes described decorative stencilling thus, for the Description of the Arts & Trades: "In order to ornament this kind of printing one can also make all sorts of stencils bearing fleurons, vignettes, cartouches, etc., which are used in printing, whether to mark them out in one go in one colour alone, or else to make the outline only and then illuminate it in different colours with a paintbrush (an art which belongs to illumination or to miniatures and which will be explained in its proper place as the work of painters)." 

The text of this manuscript is as scholarly as the illustration is visually striking. Both the French translations and the erudite commentary that accompanies them demonstrate familiarity with late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century French scholarship on Greek literature, in particular editions and translations of the work of Anacreon. The commentary is meticulously referenced, with the anonymous author here offering both the expertise of French and British scholars, and his/her own opinions of it. Amongst those consistently named here are: Anne Dacier (1647-1720), scholar and translator, whose edition of the works of Anacreon and Sappho itself appeared in 1681; her father, Tanneguy Lefebvre (1615-72) French classical scholar; Hilaire Bernard de Longepierre (1659-1721), playwright, who translated the odes of Anacreon into French verse, with remarks, in 1684; Bernard le Bouyer de Fontenelle (1656-1757), author and translator of another edition of Anacreon and Sappho; William Baxter (1650-1723) whose Latin translation of Anacreon was published in 1695; Joshua Barnes, Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge and author of another significant edition of Anacreon in 1705; and Italian orientalist Antonio Zanolini (1693-1762). These, and repeated references to the first published edition of Anacreon by Henri Estienne, are interspersed with the anonymous writer's responses to accepted scholarship - 'aucun des traducteurs ne me paroit avoir faisi le vrai sens de cette ode...' - reflections on his own translations - 'je me suis un peu étendu dans ma traduction francoise...' - and responses to the poetry itself: 'je l'estime une des plus galantes du poètes grecs - quelle discretion! quelle finesse!...'.

Provenance: Bookplate of Scottish physicist Sir Andrew Noble (1831-1915) on front pastedown; dedication to 'J.J. Hoeufft' of Breda, signed Marion (?), likely Jacob Henrik Hoeufft (1756-1843), in whose library this volume is recorded in the auction catalogue of the sale in 1844; Hoeufft was known for his translation of Anacreon's works into Dutch in 1816. Bookplate of Theo L. De Vinne, typography historian, below a presentation label from De Vinne to American author of children's books, 'Mrs M.M. Dodge' (1831-1905). 

 Eric Kindel, 'Fit to be Seen: Stencils for Architects, Engineers and Surveyors', AA Files, 61. pp. 100-109 (with particular thanks to Eric Kindel for his advice on this subject). Claude-Laurent Francois, 'Les Écritures Realises au Pochoir', in Yves Perrousseaux, Histoire de l’Ecriture Typographique Le XVIIIe siècle (Vol. II, pp. 139–160, Italy, 2010).

Stock Code: 232066

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