— Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2013 —
Beautiful Mexican Lithographs from Bossuet’s Vie de Jesus Christ
With an Ad for the Mexican Plagiarism of Nebel
53. BOSSUET, [Jacques-Bénigne]. Vida de Jesucristo, sacada de la Historia Universal de Bossuet. Contiene 20 hermosos Estampas. Publicada por Vicente Garcia Torres. Mexico.—Imprenta de la Calle del Espiritu Santo.—1842. Mexico: Vicente García Torres, 1842. 21 leaves of uncolored lithographs on versos (scenes from the history of Jesus), most signed at lower left “Lit. Calle de la Palma No. 4” (i.e., José Mariano Fernández de Lara). Folio (32 x 22.5 cm), original green printed wrappers with typographical representation of the Cross on upper wrapper, bound in contemporary three-quarter black sheep over brown and gold marbled boards, spine gilt decorated and gilt-lettered, edges sprinkled. Binding faded, corners bumped, lower wrap wrinkled, interior with scattered light foxing, plates separating from the binding. Overall a very good copy of a fragile book.
First Mexican edition. Mathes, Mexico on Stone, p. 64 (Lara and García Torres). Toussaint, La Litografía en Mexico, Plate 41 & p. xx: "Bello libro publicado por esta casa en 1843 es la Vida de Jesucristo." OCLC has two records for the book, one at University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and the other with a note that no copies are located. The present work is based on Bossuet’s Vie de Jesus Christ, tirée de l’histoire universelle, although precisely which edition was used is unknown. The twenty plates illustrate various events in Christ’s life from the Annunciation to the Ascension, including “Vocacion de los Apóstoles y primado de S. Pedro,” “Jesu Cristo cura a los enfermos,” “Jesu Cristo resuscita a Lazaro,” “ Jesu Cristo predica a la ley de gracia,” “El Prendimiento,” etc. Each plate is divided thematically into two parts, the upper of which is eighteen boxed lines of explanatory text usually bordered by various abstract elements or imagery, some of it grotesque. The lower half depicts each individual scene, many of them with pronounced late Medieval or early Renaissance themes and dress. The children depicted in “Jesus permite se le acerquen los niños,” for example, are downright Rubenesque. The vignettes are extremely detailed, well executed, and confidently drawn and composed, in addition to being beautifully lithographed.
One unusually valuable bibliographic aspect of this book is García Torres’ advertisement on the lower wrapper describing his plagiarized edition of Carlos Nebel’s Viage pintoresco y arqueólogico de Megico (see NEBEL herein), with complete plate list and indication of plates that were colored in the French edition and presumably colored in his. “Concluidos ya las 50 estampas de esta obra, de edicion mexicana, se suplica á los señores suscritores que por culpa de los repartidores no la tengan completa, ocurran á esta imprenta á recoger las entregas que les falten, ó dar aviso para que se las lleven á sus casas.” “Condiciones. A los individuos que gusten comprar en junto toda la colección, se les dará en 38 ps.——Encuadernada, en 40 ps, exhibiendo en el acto su importe.”
Bossuet (1627-1704), a French Catholic priest and polemicist, is considered the greatest pulpit orator in French history, if not the greatest of all time. He is particularly famous for his funeral orations. He held many important and influential positions with both the Church and Court, at one time being the dauphin’s tutor.
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