La Princesse de Babylone. by VOLTAIRE, [François-Marie Arouet de]. Leonetto…

La Princesse de Babylone. by VOLTAIRE, [François-Marie Arouet de]. Leonetto CAPPIELLO, illustrator.

~ La Princesse de Babylone. Paris: [Argentueil: Coulouma for] Javal et Bordeaux 1928.

4to (323 × 248mm), pp. 1-88, [6], plus 14 coloured etched plates, plus a separate suite of the 14 plates each in three further states (partially coloured, blue and monochrome). Original wrappers. Pink cloth covered box (the latter rather soiled). From the books of the late Martin Stone (1946-2016).

First edition with Cappiello’s illustrations, one of 40 copies on japon, with plates in 4 states. The illustrations by Cappiello, Italian born artist who became a prolific and iconic commercial artist in Paris of the early twentieth century. Best known and iconic as a poster artist, the books he illustrated are relatively few in number and exhibit an unusual delicacy of style. Here the plates have been prepared by René Lorrain, who prepared painstaking small editions for publishers Javal et Bordeaux (notably Bruges-la-morte of 1930) with multiple impressions from the copper plates, often finished by hand.

Voltaire’s oriental conte philosophique, Princesse de Babylone first appeared in 1768, followed by numerous eighteenth-century editions, which were frequently suppressed. The princess Formosante, born in ancient Babylon between the Tigris and Euphrates, wanders the world accompanied by a wise phoenix in pursuit of her lover Amazan from the utopian kingdom of Gangarides. She visits countries from China to England giving Voltaire to compare and criticize their customs and beliefs. cf. Carteret IV, p. 406: ‘Édition recherchée et cotée’ [he mentions the 4 states and 2 originals, the latter present only in a few hors commerce copies additional to the 40 advertised].

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