Sims Reed Rare Books×

Aesop's Fables with his Life: in English, French and Latin. Newly translated. Illustrated with one hundred and twelve sculptures. To this edition are likewise added, thirty one new figures representing his life by Francis Barlow

Barlow, Francis. (Aesop). Behn, Aphra

London. H. Hills jun. for Francis Barlow. 1687
A superlative large paper copy in a contemporary English binding by the Barlow's Aesop Binder of Barlow's undoubted masterpiece of English book illustration.

This copy - printed on excellent paper - is in a beautiful contemporary binding in a remarkable state of preservation by the ‘Barlow’s Aesop Binder’. Few bindings by the 'Barlow’s Aesop Binder' are known and the present copy, identifiable by the lettering to the spine and the decorative tooling on comparison to another copy, is one of only a handful. Active in the 1680s and 1690s, the bindery worked certainly for William and Mary, although the identified copies of Barlow’s masterpiece from the bindery include the Devonshire dedication copy from Chatsworth, the Cracherode copy (both these now at the British Library), Pepys’ copy at Magdalene, Cambridge, the present copy and one other in a private collection in the US.

This second edition of Francis Barlow's masterpiece adds 31 plates (32 including the frontispiece) to illustrate the life of Aesop, including the often mutilated 'obscene' plate (here untouched), and includes verse by Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689) commissioned especially for each of the 'Fables'. The unsigned plates are engraved by Barlow and the remainder by Thomas Dudley, a student of Wenceslaus Hollar. Barlow himself drew and engraved all of the illustrations for the 'Fables' themselves.

'The Ingenious Mrs. A. Behn has been so obliging as to perform the English Poetry, which in short comprehends the Sense of the Fable and Moral: Whereof to say much were needless, since it may sufficiently recommend it self to all Persons of Understanding.' (Francis Barlow).

'Francis Barlow was the first native English book illustrator - indeed, the leading interpretativeillustrator in England before 1800 ... Otto Benesch of the Albertina Museum, Vienna has called him 'one of the greatest illustrators of all time'.' (Edward Hodnett).

Complete copies of Barlow's work in good condition are scarce, the present copy, however, a large paper example in its original binding by theh Barlow’s Aesop Binder, printed on a different, thick, paper stock and entirely unsophisticated, is of the utmost rarity. This is borne out, if it is necessary to provide evidence, by the fact that this copy featured in two sophisticated collections of illustrated books of the last 50 years: firstly that of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, secondly that of Robert S. Pirie; the latter collector rarely, if ever, settled for second best and would certainly have bought another copy if he had found one, that he had to wait for the present copy is telling.

[Wing 703; see ‘English Restoration Bindings’ by Howard Nixon, pg. 40, nos. 98 / 99; see 'Francis Barlow' by Edward Hodnett, 1978].
[196 leaves; pp. (x), 40, (62), 40, 17, 2 - 221, (3)]. Collation: a2, B2-I2, K2-L2, B2-I2, K2-L2, B2-I2, K2-T2, V2, X2-Z2, Aa2-Ii2, Kk2-Tt2, Vv2, Xx2-Zz2, Aaa2-Iii2, Kkk2-Ppp2. Contents: Leaf with engraved title verso; title recto, verso blank; leaf with engraved arms of 'William, Earl of Devonshire' verso; a1 dedication leaf 'to the Right Honorable William, Earl of Devonshire'; a2 'to the Reader' recto, engraved frontispiece verso; page 1 (B1) - page 40 (L2) 'A Brief Prospect of the Life of Aesop'; 31 engraved plates by Francis Barlow printed recto only, including the scandalous plate; page 1 (B1) - page 40 (L2) 'la Vie d'Esope, Phrygien'; page 1 (B1) - page 17 (F1 recto) 'Aesopi, Philosophice Fabulantis, Vita'; page 2 (F2 verso) - page 222 (Ppp1 recto 'the Fables of Aesop', 'Fables d'Esope', 'Aesopi Fabulae' with 110 half-page vignette engravings by Francis Barlow with verses by Aphra Behn; Ppp1 verso - Ppp2 recto 'the Table'. Folio. (372 x 242 mm). Engraved title, printed title, engraving with the Devonshire arms, dedication leaf 'to the Right Honourable William of Devonshire', leaf 'to the Reader', engraved frontispiece and 31 engraved plates illustrating the 'Life of Aesop' and 110 half-page vignette engravings to the 'Fables'. Full contemporary midnight blue morocco by the 'Barlow's Aesop Binder', boards ruled in gilt to surround gilt tooled decorative panels with foliate decorative corner pieces, banded spine with elaborate decorative tooling and title 'BARLOWs AESOP' gilt, turn ins and board edges with gilt roll tool decoration, marbled endpapers, a.e.g., black morocco-backed velvet-lined buckram box.

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