Relation de l’inauguration Solemnelle de Sa Sacrée Majesté Imperiale et Catholique, Charles VI. Empereur des Romains…Celebrée à Gand Ville Capitale de la Province, le XVIII. Octobre 1717.
Tall folio [44 x 27 cm], Engraved frontispiece and 6 large folding plates by Helybrouck, Berterham and Harrewyn after van Volxsom, J. Colin and Eykens, 32 pp., including title and first text leaf printed in red and black. Bound in 19th c vellum, morocco title label on spine. Provenance: Victor Massena, Prince of Essling (1836-1910); and the Paul and Marianne Gourary Collection ("PMG" stamp on front pastedown). Minor toning but generally a tall and fresh copy, with the plates in fine impression.
First edition of a sumptuous festival book commemorating the inauguration of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1717 as Count of Flanders, featuring an allegorical frontispiece and six large folding plates, including four engravings of the extravagant firework displays that followed the ceremony.
The book provides a meticulous day-by-day account of the festivities, including the cavalcade’s departure from Brussels on the 16th of October and its arrival at Mont Blandin Abbey in Ghent, the musical program of the Mass at St. Bavo's Cathedral, and especially the opulent splendor of the inauguration on the afternoon of the 18th at the Marché du Vendredi (Vrijdagmarkt, Ghent’s largest public square), for which an enormous stage had been specially designed by the architect Jacob Colin. The inauguration engraving—nearly a full meter wide—is signed by Colin, C. Eykens and the engraver J.B. Berterham, who also executed the engraving of the interior of the Cathedral. A third plate depicts a rather grisly triumphal arch, celebrating the expansion of the Austrian Empire with pikes bearing the severed heads of Turkish generals.
The spacious Vrijdagmarkt, with its central column and statue of HRE Charles V, is also the backdrop for two of the three feu d’artifice plates. Curiously, each of these engravings depicts the incendiary towers in two stages: not only during the detonation of their pyrotechnic fountains, but also prior to their lighting, when their thousands of canisters still hang intact and untouched. The most striking of these plates, by Jacob Harrewijn, depicts the towers at night, looming over the Gothic façade of the Hôtel de Ville.
Though Charles VI acceded as Count of Flanders in 1713, the protracted transfer of the province from the Spanish Habsburgs to the Austrian Habsburgs delayed festivities until 1717, at which point no expense was spared to celebrate the inauguration. Graet’s fête book even proclaims Charles “Roy des Espanges,” though that title had already been won in the War of the Spanish Succession by Philip V.
* Berlin 2959; Watanabe 2730; Landwehr Ceremonies 198; Lotz, p. 104; Salatino, Incendiary Art, pp. 33-36.