Paris: Léonard Gaultier, circa 1590. Small folio, measuring 10 x 7 inches, nineteenth-century black morocco elaborately decorated in gilt, with alternating devices of a crowned L (for Lothian), SH monogram (for Schomberg Henry), and sunburst, spine similarly decorated and lettered in gilt, all edges gilt. Engraved title and 32 numbered copper-engraved plates, each including a stanza of eight lines, exceptionally wide-margined. Plates 25 and 26 reversed. Lightest rubbing to joints, occasional light marginal staining, stain to lower gutter of leaf bearing plate 19 (not affecting image). Bookseller notes in pencil to front endpapers. Armorial bookplate of Schomburg Henry Kerr, 9th Marquess of Lothian, nineteenth-century diplomat and bibliophile; modern bookplate of collectors Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow.
First edition, second issue, of French engraver Léonard Gaultier's celebrated series depicting the legend of Cupid and Psyche. The narrative is drawn from the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, better known as The Golden Ass. That second-century Latin novel was revived in the fourteenth century, and popularized by way of Boccaccio and countless others: the forbidden love between Cupid and Psyche, god and mortal, body and soul, captivated the Renaissance imagination. Léonard Gaultier was the official engraver to the French court from 1594 to 1617. His delicate, sometimes whimsical engravings in this edition are the culmination of a long pictorial tradition. They are based on the woodcuts used by Jeanne de Marnef Janot in 1546, which were inspired by earlier engravings by Agostino Veniziano and the Maestro del Dado, after a series of drawings formerly attributed to Raphael, but now generally to the Flemish painter Michiel Coxie. Scenes of note include Psyche illuminating the sleeping Cupid by lamplight (Plate 13), Venus crossing the ocean astride a fantastic dolphin (Plate 16), and Psyche feeding the three-headed dog Cerberus (plate 26). Text in French. This copy is second issue, circa 1590, without Gaultier's name and the date 1586 in the final plate: both issues are very scarce. This copy is notable for its wide margins, which Mortimer notes are usually trimmed to produce a book of typical octavo size: this appears to be the largest copy on record. Mortimer French 34 (1586 issue). A beautiful copy of a beautiful book, with excellent provenance, in an elaborate and striking armorial binding by Edinburgh binder Orrock & Son.