Fair highlight from Daniel Crouch Rare Books
The China volumes from Van der Aa’s monumental Galerie Agreable
AA, Pieter van der. La Galerie agreable du Monde... le Tome Premier de Chine & Grande Tartarie... Leyden, Pierre vander Aa, .
Three volumes, quarto (385 by 270mm), 3 titles in red and black, 14pp. text, 122 (of 126) engraved maps and views (lacking 4 plates from volume 3), half calf over original publisher’s marbled paper boards.
When Pieter van der Aa published his Galérie agréable de monde in 1728, he was at the end of a long and distinguished publishing career. In 1677, he opened his own bookshop and publishing house at the age of 18, selling mainly academic and scholarly text. He gradually broadened his publishing scope and by the turn of the eighteenth century had moved into the publication of works on travel and topography. These included composite atlases, a series of geographical descriptions of European countries, and most importantly the ‘Naauwkeurgie versameling der gedenk-waardigste zee- en landreysen...’, a remarkable collection of 127 accounts of travels to the East and West Indies. He was also involved, in other monumental works including the ‘Opera omnia’ of Erasmus edited by Jean Leclerc, and three multi volume surveys of the antiquities of the classical world. It was the production of such scholarly text that earned him the post of printer to both the town and university of Leyden. In 1729, after a career spanning over 50 years, van der Aa sold his working library of nearly 11,000 items at auction. As well as the auction VAn der Aa also explored ways in which to sell of his vast print collection. The landed on the idea of huge multi volume work, sure the largest in his publishing history; thus the La Galerie agreable du Monde was born.
The great work was made up of 66 parts, and although it professed to cover the entire world, it was due to quantity of Europe material in Van der Aa’s stock, somewhat Eurocentric, with 47 of the 66 parts covering Europe. The plates generally consist of views, maps, and street plans, with some plates depicting native dress. Of the parts covering foreign parts, as in the present example, there are a great many plates covering religious ceremonies, customs, together with exotic flora and fauna.
What the work shows is the collected graphic knowledge of one of, if not the leading European publisher of his day. The plates in the present three China volumes show numerous panorama’s of the principle cities including Beijing, Nanjing, Guangdong, and Tianjin; costume plates, views of the Forbidden City, Pagodas, Chinese gods, Buddhist temples, numerous Mandarins, the Dutch ambassador’s mission to China, flags, court ceremony, funeral rites, animals, cormorant fishing, Chinese shipping, and fireworks.