MONTESQUIEU, Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de (1689-1755) - EISEN, Charles-Dominique-Joseph (1720-1778). Le Temple de Gnide. Paris: Didot jeune, l'an troisième, .
3 works in one volume. 8vo., (Large-paper copy: 12 6/8 x 9 6/8 inches). Exceptionally fine color-printed engraved frontispiece and 9 plates after Charles Eisen by Le Mire (from the 1772 edition) and 2 color-printed engraved plates after Le Barbier by Thomas (for "Arsace et Ismenie"), most plates finished by hand (one plate spotted). Contemporary polished calf gilt, each cover decorated with a broad border of Greek key and acanthus leaf roll tools, the smooth spine in ruled in six compartments, black morocco lettering-piece in one, the others decorated with very fine small gilt tools, possibly by Lefebvre, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (extremities a bit rubbed). Provenance: from the library of Jacques Levy, his sale, Sotheby's, 20th April 2012, lot 240 A BEAUTIFUL COPY. First published in 1725, this is the second edition with Eisen's exquisite plates depicting idyllic scenes from Montesquieu's pseudo-Greek prose pastoral. "Montesquieu was one of the great political philosophers of the Enlightenment. Insatiably curious and mordantly funny, he constructed a naturalistic account of the various forms of government, and of the causes that made them what they were and that advanced or constrained their development. He used this account to explain how governments might be preserved from corruption. He saw despotism, in particular, as a standing danger for any government not already despotic, and argued that it could best be prevented by a system in which different bodies exercised legislative, executive, and judicial power, and in which all those bodies were bound by the rule of law. This theory of the separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political theory, and on the framers of the constitution of the United States of America" (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta ed). "Le temple de Gnide" and "Arsace et Isménie" are short novels, the former "a sensuous turn written for the licentious society of the Regency epoch" (Catholic Encyclopedia online). Eisen, who provided the exquisite coloured engravings illustrating this book entered the studio of the Parisian engraver Jacques Philippe Lebas (1707-1783) in 1741 and later he "enjoyed the favor of Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), to whom, with François Boucher (1703-1770) and Charles Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790), he taught engraving. It was perhaps through her that Eisen was given various royal titles, such as painter and draftsman of the King's cabinet. He appears to have been a controversial figure: his refusal to pay the entry fee to the Académie de Saint-Luc on the grounds that he was too exceptional an artist led to the seizure of his studio in 1748, although he successfully sued and was admitted in 1750, rising from councilor to rector by 1774. Ill and in debt, he returned to Brussels in 1777 and died the following year. Painting was a secondary activity for Eisen; he was primarily a draftsman and illustrator, providing illustrations for nearly 400 books during his lifetime. He exhibited as many drawings and engravings at the Académie de Saint-Luc as he did paintings" (Metropolitan Museum of Art online). Cohen-de Ricci 728-29.