Amsterdam: Printed for the Wetsteins and Smith, 1732. Two folio volumes, measuring 17.5 x 12 inches, continuously paginated: , 1-247, ; , 249-524, . Contemporary full mottled calf rebacked, raised bands, spine compartments ruled in gilt, crimson and green morocco spine labels lettered in gilt, boards gilt-ruled with central gilt monogram of the Duke of Buccleugh to boards, marbled endpapers. Full-page engraved allegorical frontispiece, title pages printed in black and red with engraved printer’s device, engraved arms of the Countess of Pembroke on dedication page, woodcut decorations and initials throughout text, 124 half-page copper engravings by Bernard Picart, and six engravings on three sheets by Le Brun. Armorial bookplates of the Duke of Buccleugh and private library labels of Easton Neston to front pastedowns, ink shelf notations to preliminary blanks of both volumes. Light occasional foxing to text, old paper repair to page 1, trace of wax to page 254, expert repair to corners.
First printing of Picart’s illustrated edition of the Metamorphoses, the most beautiful edition of Ovid’s epic of transformation, issued simultaneously in English, Dutch, and French translation. This is the English issue, featuring the original Latin text alongside lively translations by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, John Addison, John Gay, William Congreve, and other “eminent hands,” first published in London in 1717 with different illustrations. The French abbot and scholar Antoine Banier provides scholarly notes on the fables. Among the hundreds of classical legends retold here are those of Europa, Pygmalion, Midas, Aeneas, Tiresias, Ulysses, Icarus, Pyramus and Thisbe, Diana and Actaeon, Narcissus and Echo, Perseus and Andromeda, Medea and Jason, Venus and Adonis, and Orpheus and Eurydice: “They well-nigh now had pass’d the Bounds of Night, / And just approach’d the Margin of the Light, / When he, mistrusting lest her Steps might stray, / And gladsome of the Glympse of dawning Day, / His longing Eyes, impatient, backward cast / To catch a Lover’s Look, but look’d his last” (Book X). This edition is brilliantly illustrated by the French engraver Bernard Picart, best remembered for his ten-volume Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde. As the “Bookseller’s Preface” observes: “The numerous Sculptures that adorn this Edition every where strike the Eye; and shew we have as little spared Expence as Care to render it perfect. Many of them are wholly designed and engraved by the Celebrated Picart; and all the others by Able Masters conducted by him; whose Genius, perhaps as eminent for Painting as Ovid’s was for Poetry, seems designed by Nature to Embellish him.” Lowndes III, 1744; Cohen-de Ricci 768. A near-fine example of a spectacular book.