3 volumes, folio (14 x 10 1/2 in.; 357 x 266 mm). Binding: Contemporary red half morocco by Ch. Blaise (signed in gilt at foot of vol. I) over marbled boards, spines gilt in five compartments, the four false raised bands decorated with elegant gilt floral sprays, contrasting marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. Provenance: Caroline de Selys Longchamps (acquisition inscription on front free endpaper of vol. 1, "Caroline de Selys Longchamps donné par Grand merê, le 1r Janvier 1854") — Ladislaus von Hoffmann (Christie's New York, 4 June 1997, "An Important Botanical Library, The Property of a Gentleman," lot 123).
Light foxing to portrait, titles of vols. 1 and 2 and some text leaves, particularly in vol. 1. Extremities of bindings rubbed.
Les Roses was published in thirty parts between March 1817 and March 1825 in four formats: large-paper folio with colored plates; large-paper folio with an extra suite of the plates printed in black ink on ochre paper; folio with colored plates; and, as with the Allen copy, folio with the plates in two states. "The technical execution of its production was … near perfect. The artistic quality of the plates is high, and there is no reason to mark it any lower than one would Les Liliacées and the Jardin de la Malmaison" (Stafleu). The plates of Les Roses were executed by means of stipple engraving, a method ideally suited to render the subtle gradations of tone found in Redouté's original watercolors.
Redouté had met the renowned and talented engraver Francesco Bartolozzi, from whom he learned that the most successful of stipple engravings came from well-used plates. The striking black impressions found in the present set, then, had a pragmatic genesis: "It was discovered by English printers that stipple engravings printed most successfully from plates that had been well used. A number of black impressions were run off to take the sharpness off the plate. Redouté's printers also took some black impressions from plates for both the Liliacées and the Roses. For the interest of connoisseurs Redouté included a set of black plates as a parallel series to the usual color-printed versions in special issues of both books. Significantly, the black impressions are always printed on paper with a strong ochre-yellow tint. … Since black has a much greater force than the delicate colored inks washed with thin watercolor that Redouté normally used, black impressions on reflective white paper would have produced prints with grossly exaggerated tonal contrasts. By using paper devoid of brilliance, he was able to subdue that contrast and produce black prints that enabled the reader to appreciate the purity of his engravers' stipple and roulette technique" (Bridson & Wendel).
Like Les Liliacées, Redouté's Roses bears testament to the influence of his patron Josephine Bonaparte, even though she did not live to see the book published. Redouté started painting roses at Malmaison, and, as Stafleu notes, "in many respects the plates are Josephine's roses." The botanical descriptions were by Claude Antoine Thory, a civil servant by profession, and an enthusiastic gardener who cultivated his own collection of roses. He and Redouté regularly traded cuttings. The roses depicted in the work included examples not only from Malmaison, but from Thory's garden as well. "Redouté and Thory knew, described, and figured almost all the important roses in their day. Included were many of the key ancestors of our present-day roses. The plates in 'Les Roses' have artistic value, and botanical and documentary value, both for the species and cultivars still surviving and for those that have disappeared" (Gisèle de la Roche, quoted in the Schutter facsimile, Antwerp, 1974–1978).
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