The Largest Print Collection Ever Formed Up to that Time
“The Father of Print Collecting”
Catalogue de Livres d’Estampes et des Figures en Taille douce. Avec un dénombrement des pieces qui y sont contenuës. Fait à Paris en l’annee 1666.
Woodcut vignette on title. 167 (i.e. 157),  pp. 8vo, fine red morocco of about 1760, triple gilt fillets round sides, tiny gilt stars at each corner, flat spine richly gilt “á la grotesque,” green morocco lettering piece on spine, blue paper endpapers, a.e.g. Paris: F. Leonard, 1666.
First edition of the catalogue of the first of two print collections formed by Marolles (1600-81), abbot of Villeloin and man of letters. He began acquiring prints in 1626 and by 1644, his collecting activities governed his life. At that time there was little competition, and Marolles bought several important collections en bloc, including those of Delorme, Maugis, Kerver, Petau, La Reynie, and others. His first collection amounted to 123,400 separate prints by more than 6000 print makers, mounted in 400 large volumes and 141 smaller ones. It was acquired in the name of the King by Colbert in 1667 for 28,000 livres. This was the largest and finest collection ever formed up to that time and is today the foundation of the Bibliothèque Nationale’s Department of Prints.
Marolles assembled “the first print collection on the grand scale…[and]…was among the first of the private collectors in history to sacrifice his life and fortune to his passion. He may truly be called the ‘Father of Print Collecting’…by the very scope of his activity, and his interest in separating his many thousands of pieces of paper into artist schools, Marolles lifted the printed picture from a by-path of typography to being one of the major prizes of the born collector.”–Taylor, The Taste of Angels: A History of Art Collecting.
Fine copy, handsomely bound. Stamp on title of the Abbey of St. Germain de Près. Cipher “HDD” on title (Lugt 739). This is the stamp of Pierre Defer (1798-1870), expert to King Louis Philippe, and his nephew Henri Dumesnil (1823-98), who inherited Defer’s collection. Defer formed an important private collection of prints and drawings in the first half of the 19th century. He devoted much of his life to the study of prints and drawings and is best remembered for his unfinished Catalogue général des Ventes Publiques de Tableaux et d’estampes.
❧ Besterman, Old Art Books, pp. 71-72.
Brunet, III, 1443–“Ce deux petits catalogues ne sont communs ni l’un ni l’autre.”
Lugt, Marques, pp. 339-40–“L’abbé Michel de Marolles est un des plus remarquables amateurs d’estampes de l’histoire. La richesse de son cabinet était fabuleuse.”.
Item ID: 5840