The women of Constantinople: the first costume book to show only women in their traditional dress

La Chappelle, George de. Recuel [!] de divers portraits des principales dames de la Porte du Grand Turc. Tirée au naturel sur les lieux.

Paris, Antoine Estienne / chez le Blond, 1648.

Folio (235 x 335 mm). Engraved title, 3 pp. of dedication, 1 leaf (Privilege du Roy), 12 leaves of text interleaved with 12 engraved plates, woodcut headpieces and initials. The plates, probably by Noel (not Nicolas) Cochin after La Chapelle, show costumes against a scenic background. Contemporary full vellum.


First edition, very rare. Georges de la Chappelle, a native of Caen, accompanied the French envoy Le Haye to the Porte and spent several years in the Levant. His work is known to us almost exclusively through these engravings, showing what Thieme/Becker described as "the prettiest ladies in the Imperial Seraglio". In the introductory text included in this first edition, La Chappelle explains that the series was occasioned by a recent French edition of Chalcocondyles, in which (as he complains) the women's costumes were very poorly drawn. La Chappelle clearly had a special interest in female costume: "his own representations are highly detailed, with special attention paid to the fabulous jewels and fine needlework that adorn the garments of Levantine costume. (According to the preface, the accuracy of his drawings could be attested by Le Haye [...], in whose presence the drawings were executed.) To add verisimilitude to the plates, examples of Turkish, Persian, Tartar, Armenian and Greek costume are depicted against topographical backgrounds showing the areas in and around Constantinople in which the models were most likely to reside" (Atabey). Curiously, several of these backgrounds, when placed side by side, form a near-consecutive panorama of Constantinople and its environs.

Occasional light brownstains; wants front flyleaf. Vellum slightly stained and wrinkled; lower cover shows traces of old calculations. An attractive copy in a strictly contemporary binding.

Atabey 648. Colas 1697. Thieme/Becker VI, 378f. Cf. Blackmer 935 (2nd edition). Not in Lipperheide or Cohen/de Ricci.