Finely engraved title-pages, engraved dedication leaf to Louis XV, engraved head- & tail-pieces, & many engravings in the text. Vol. I: two engraved plates & Vol. II: 63 engraved plates. 5 p.l., 468,  pp.; 2 p.l., xii, , 132 (i.e. 135 leaves incl. 47*, 86*, & 107*); 2 leaves. Two vols. Folio, cont. red morocco, triple gilt fillet round sides, spines richly gilt, a.e.g. Paris: 1750.
First edition and a magnificent large set bound in contemporary red morocco; this is a presentation copy from Baron Holbach, inscribed on the free front-endpaper: “This Book I receiv’d from the Baron D’Holbach. Paris – October – 1763.”
“This is the earliest analytical work on engraved gems and one that fully retains value even today. However, the two volumes are actually two distinct works combined together for the author’s convenience as publisher as well as writer. The first volume is by far the most important because of its authoritative summary of the knowledge of engraved gems and that enormously increased in value by its lengthy discourses on previous works published on engraved gems, with a large, nearly exhaustive list of same…
“The first volume begins with a history of engraved gems in general, followed by an essay on modern gem engravers and their work, and a large description of the art of engraving, divided into 4 chapters: I. descriptions of gemstones and other stones used in engraved gems, pp. 153-94, i.e., diamond (including its faceted forms with text & a fig of same), ruby, glass, zircon, garnet, emerald, beryl, peridot, chrysolite, topaz, sapphire, amethyst, other quartz varieties, opal, turquoise, malachite, jade, lapis, coral, amber, and ivory. The authorities cited here are mostly Pliny, De Berquen, and De Boodt. II. Lapidary processes, tools, equipment, etc, required to engrave gems and with the famous engraved plate showing an engraver in his atelier, and beneath, diagrams of the engraving head, accessories, and points. III. Falsifications, and IV. Making impressions. The last portion of the first volume, p. 239 to the end, comments on previous writers and engravers of plates for illustrative purposes, as well as the bibliography…
“In contrast, the second volume is entirely devoted to descriptions of engraved gems in the cabinet of Louis XV(1710-1774), King of France, and it is this volume that aroused the keenest interest on the part of C. W. King, Antique Gems and Rings, I, 1872, pp. 465-6, who lauds the first volume but criticizes the second, noting that ‘the large number of engravings, by Bouchardon [1698-1762], after gems in the royal cabinet, are, however, in too loose and flowing style to give any accurate idea of their originals.’ The drawings of the gems were supervised by Comte de Caylus(1692-1765), the noted French art connoisseur and antiquarian.”–Sinkankas 4208.
The above-mentioned bibliography (pp. 239-468) in Vol. I is an extremely comprehensive and valuable guide (see Peignot, p. 249).
Holbach (1723-89), a nobleman of immense wealth and with considerable learning, was the host of a brilliant salon in Paris for many years and a prolific contributor to the Encyclopédie.
This richly illustrated work, which contains more than 200 engravings, is in very fine condition. Engraved armorial bookplate of Kirknvall.
Item ID: 2671