(Paris): chez l’Auteur; chez Deroy, Libraire; chez les principaux Libraires de la République, 1796. Seventy-two parts divided into five quarto volumes, bound in four, early nineteenth-century full vellum with central arabesques tooled in blind to center of boards, raised bands, manuscript titles to spines, green silk ribbon ties. Four hand-colored engraved frontispieces and 434 hand-colored engraved plates depicting the peoples of the world, borders heightened in gold, tissue guards. Many text leaves and plates printed on blue paper. Four pages of publisher’s advertisements in volume I; volumes I and III-V bound without lists of plates. Ink shelfmarks and bookplates of the Earl of Dalhousie, Austin Smith, K.K. Wood, and J.R.P. to front pastedowns.
First edition of this hand-colored encyclopedia of the peoples of five continents, an ambitious Enlightenment-era survey of the known world. The diplomat Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur was born in Montreal in 1757 and died in Paris in 1810. In that brief span he produced a series of illustrated works devoted to ethnography, the Encyclopédie being the most extensive. Issued in parts, the work spans five volumes: Europe (divided into two sections), Asia, Africa, and America. Grasset de Saint-Sauveur records the customs and costumes of each local population, from his own countrymen through increasingly remote civilizations, concluding with the latest discoveries in the New World. The lasting appeal of the work lies in the hundreds of vividly hand-colored plates that represent the peoples of the world, framed as glimpses into everyday life: a Neapolitan fruit vendor with his basket of grapes, a Senegalese warrior carrying both spear and gun, an Indian nabab with parasol and hookah, a West Indian drummer and dancers, a Tahitian girl in full court dress, an Indonesian astride an elephant, a Chinese Buddhist monk, Turkish women enjoying the baths, Bohemian peasants toasting in a tavern, a group of young Russians sledding. Like other French artists of the period, Grasset de Saint-Sauveur was particularly captivated by the recent Pacific exploration of Cook and La Perouse, and the final America volume is filled with images inspired by those voyages: portraits of the natives of Nootka Sound, Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, and more. Shortly after the publication of the Encyclopédie, Grasset de Saint-Sauveur would publish a rare composite image of many of these figures on a single plate dedicated to the New World, titled “Tableau des Decouvertes du Cap. Cook & de la Perouse.” The title pages, as well as the advertisement in the first volume, describe the Encyclopédie as complete with 432 plates, a number echoed by bibliographers Brunet, Colas and others. However, the present example includes 438 plates, inclusive of the four frontispieces, more plates than any other recorded copy. The six additional plates, supplied from one of Grasset de Saint-Sauveur's later works in this vein, are “Russien” and “Russienne” in Volume II, “Habitants de la Carie” in Volume III, and “Sauvage de la Guiane,” “Sauvagesse de la Guiane,” and “Piaye-Medecin de la Guiane” in Volume V. The set features gilt borders around each plate and delicate hand coloring; most extant sets do not include the gold border, suggesting that this example may have been part of a deluxe issue. Text in French. Brunet II: 1711 (calling for 432 plates); Colas 1292 (calling for 428 plates and 4 frontispieces); Forbes I:249 and I:264; Lipperheide Ac 11 (calling for 428 plates and 4 frontispieces). A spectacular copy, in a handsome early binding.