[—]. Abrégé historique des principaux traits de la vie de Confucius célèbre philosophe Chinois orné de 24 estampes in 4o. Gravées par Helman, d’après des dessins originaux de la Chine envoyés à Paris par le P. Amiot missionaire à Pekin et tirés du cabinet de Mr Bertin … Paris, chez l’auteur … et chez M. Ponce, [c. 1786].
Two works in one vol., large folio, I: engraved title, engraved dedication leaf, 24 engraved plates each with one accompanying leaf of engraved descriptive text, here on 25 uncut sheets (385 x 555 mm) with 2 engravings per sheet to rectos only; II: engraved title, 24 engraved plates with 28 pages of engraved descriptive text, here on 25 uncut sheets (385 x 555 mm) with 2 or 3 engravings per sheet; both works on thick paper with watermark ‘Fin de Dupuy Auvergne 1784’; a little light foxing and spotting, the first work with a few abrasions to dedication plate and small chip to edge of sheet with plate 7, the second work with marginal loss to sheet with plate 17 (repaired); overall very good in modern brown paste paper covered boards, calf spine decorated in gilt with vines and with gilt red morocco lettering-piece, vellum corners; a little wear to edges.
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Faits mémorables des empereurs de la Chine, tirés des annales Chinoises, dédiés à Madame, orné de 24 estampes in 4o gravées par Helman, d’après les dessins originaux de la Chine, tirés du cabinet de Mr Bertin …
Two handsome engraved works by the French engraver and printseller Helman (1743–1806/9), here on uncut sheets, the first depicting scenes from Chinese history, the second episodes in the life of Confucius (Kong Fuzi).
‘Helman was not only a talented engraver but also an astute businessman. One of his profitable commercial ventures was the Conquêtes de l’empereur de la Chine (1783) … a suite of folio reductions of drawings made by French missionaries, including Jean-Denis Attiret (1702–68), for Qianlong, emperor of China from 1736 to 1796. These were engraved under the direction of Charles-Nicolas Cochin (ii), but as the emperor had stipulated that all the proofs should be returned to China only a very few copies remained in France, in the hands of the royal family. Taking advantage of their rarity, and of the general interest in Chinese subjects, Helman produced his suite and was so encouraged by its success that he undertook two more Chinese suites, the Abrégé historique des principaux traits de la vie de Confucius … and the Faits mémorables des empereurs de la Chine’ (Grove Art Online).
The titles to both works detail the different formats available to customers and their respective prices, the Faits mémorables ranging from 12 livres in unbound sheets to 48 livres on papier d’Hollande with hand-coloured plates. A variant title to the Faits states that it was issued in four parts appearing bimonthly from 15 April 1788. According to Reed & Demattè, the prints and captions for the Faits were ‘derived from a Qing-dynasty edition of a Ming-dynasty publication, the Dijian tushuo (Illustrated discussion of the emperor’s mirror, 1573)’.
Löwendahl, China illustrata nova 654, 647; Lust 1133, 729; Reed & Demattè, China on paper 20, 21.
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