Category Archives: Inscriptions

Newly Discovered Association Copies

Curatorial intern Brian Flota has been searching the Library’s modern British literature holdings in order to track down items from the Tom Turner collection of British literature, purchased by Gordon Ray in the 1950s. In the process, Brian discovered many previously unknown association copies and a number of fine press poetry chapbooks. In this post, he picks ten of the items to share with the readers of Non Solus.

(1) Stanley J. Weyman. The Great House. London: John Murray, 1919. (823 W54gr 1919)

Stanley Weyman (1855-1928) is best known for his French historical romances, which were compared to Alexandre Dumas at the time of their publication. This late novel, The Great House, is about the anti-corn law movement. The library’s copy features an inscription from Weyman to Leonard Huxley (1860-1933), thanking him for his “kindly encouragement and oversight.” Leonard Huxley was the editor of the Cornhill Magazine, in which this work was originally serialized. He was also the father of the great English novelist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963).

(2) Ouida. “Held in Bondage,” or, Granville de Vigne: A Tale of the Day. London: Tinsley, Brothers, 1863. (823 D374he)

Ouida was the nom de plume of Maria Louise Ramé (1839-1908), a prolific English writer known primarily for her popular adventures and historical novels. Held in Bondage was her first novel, published in three volumes. The Library’s copy includes a four-page letter, handwritten and signed by Ouida, tipped-in the first volume. Ouida lived a tempestuous life filled with extravagances paid for by her best-selling novels, but died in poverty in Italy, surrounded by the many stray dogs she had adopted.

(3) Caroline Sheridan Norton. The Dream and Other Poems. London: Henry Colburn, 1840. (821 N82d)

The Dream was the sixth book of poetry published by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (1808-1877). A woman of high society, her life, especially during the time of the publication of The Dream, was fraught with public scandal. On the front fly-leaf of the Library’s copy, Norton has inscribed what appears to be an original, twenty-line poem, beginning, “The God that gave, reclaimed his gift; –.”

(4) Israel Zangwill. The Grey Wig: Stories and Novelettes. London: William Heinemann, 1903. (823 Z1gr)

Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) was a notable Jewish writer from England and an important member of the Zionist movement. Zangwill is most remembered today for his 1908 play The Melting Pot, which served to popularize the term and concept. Our copy of his earlier collection of short stories, The Grey Wig, features an inscription to “Mrs. Chaplin,” a relative of his wife, Edith Ayrton Zangwill. Edith Ayrton’s mother, Matilda Charlotte Chaplin Ayrton (1846-1883), was a member of the “Edinburgh Seven” – a group of women who fought unsuccessfully to earn medical degrees from Edinburgh University in the early 1870s.

(5) M.P. Shiel. The Yellow Danger. London: Grant Richards, 1900. (823 Sh59y 1900)

M.P. Shiel (1865-1947), the English popular adventure and science fiction novelist, first published The Yellow Danger in 1898. This xenophobic novel of racial conflict was apparently an influence on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu character. The library’s copy is inscribed by Shiel on the title page. Shiel’s popularity has waned greatly since his death, but his post-apocalyptic novel The Purple Cloud (1901) was recently republished by the University of Nebraska Press in their “Bison Frontiers of Imagination” series.

(6) Four Grant Richards Items:

Grant Richards. Caviare. London: Grant Richards, 1912. (823 R392c)

Grant Richards. Valentine. London: Grant Richards, 1913. (823 R392v)

Grant Richards. Bittersweet. London: Grant Richards, 1915. (823 R392b)

William Watson. Lachrymae Musarum and Other Poems. London: Macmillan, 1892. (821 W33ℓ)

Grant Richards (1872-1948) was one of England’s most prominent publishers in the early 20th Century. As a publisher, he is perhaps most famous for publishing, after a decade-long delay, James Joyce’s first short story collection, Dubliners (1914). Richards was also a novelist. The library has three of his novels inscribed in a miniscule hand to journalist and bibliophile Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948). And the library also owns a book inscribed to Grant Richards: a slim hardbound volume of poetry by William Watson (1858-1935) that is inscribed to Richards from “his sincere friend.” If you are interested in Grant Richards’s writings or in his work as a publisher, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds a collection of his correspondence, literary manuscripts, and business papers. Additional collections of Grant Richards materials are housed at Georgetown University, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Ireland, and Princeton University.

(7) Edgar Jepson. The Passion for Romance. London: H. Henry & Co., 1896. (823 J46pa)

Edgar Jepson (1863-1938) inscribed this copy of The Passion for Romance to his sometime literary collaborator John Gawsworth (1912-1970), later known in his own right as a poet and a publisher. Gawsworth was also M.P. Shiel’s bibliographer and literary executor. In the inscription in the Library’s copy, Jepson provides some advice for Gawsworth: “Patience: and shuffle the cards.”

(8) Captain J.A. Kemble. Creeds: A World-Embracing Poem. [Calcutta, India: s.n., 1909?]. (821 K232c)

Not much is known about J.A. Keble, but this copy of his poem Creeds is an interesting artifact of Great Britain’s colonization of India. The poem is inscribed to one “General Edward Hastings Ripley” from Capt. Keble’s station in Darjeeling. A publisher’s advertisement affixed to the verso of the author’s portrait notes he is also the author of Darjeeling Ditties and Other Poems.

(9) Thom Gunn. The Garden of the Gods. Cambridge, Mass.: Pym-Randall Press, 1968. (821 G956ga)

Thom Gunn (1929-2004) was part of the British school of writers that produced Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, and Ted Hughes. Interestingly, he relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1954 and was present for the emergence of the Beat Movement there. This chapbook of his poem “The Garden of the Gods” is signed and numbered by the author.

(10) Thomas Adolphus Trollope. A Peep Behind the Scenes at Rome. London: Chatto and Windus, 1877. (823 T746p)

Unlike the other items discussed in the post, A Peep Behind the Scenes at Rome is not signed by its author, who in this case happens to be Thomas Adolphus Trollope (1810-1892). Thomas Adolphus Trollope was a noted travel writer and older brother to the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope. What makes the copy noteworthy is Anthony Trollope’s armorial bookplate on the front paste-down. This copy was subsequently passed down to Anthony’s granddaughter, Muriel Trollope. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds a small collection of the letters, journals, unpublished literary works of Anthony Trollope and other members of the Trollope family, including some of Thomas Adolphus Trollope’s letters and journals. BF, AD

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Artemus Ward and The Woman in White (823 C69w 1860b)

Wilkie Collins. The Woman in White. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860.

In the Civil War era few American humorists were as popular as Charles Farrar Browne (1834-67), a vagabond reporter and lecturer better known by his pseudonym–Artemus Ward. Starting his career as a typesetter for Boston’s Carpet-Bag in 1851, by the middle-fifties Browne was based in Ohio, writing and editing for newspapers in Cincinnati, Dayton, and a number of smaller cities. In 1858, as local editor of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, he developed his Artemus Ward persona, and over the next decade cultivated a public following in the United States and abroad.

During his short lifetime, working in a genre that rarely results in canonization, Ward nonetheless made several important contributions to American letters. Perhaps the most significant of these was his influence on the young Mark Twain, whose comic sensibilities derive in large part from Ward’s writings and lectures.

Ward’s earliest appearances in print were spurious letters to the editor, interviews, travel pieces, and the like, characterized by a sardonic tone and featuring what can be described as his own unique form of the English language, in which our spelling and grammar rules do not apply.

Ward’s first letter to the editor, from January 1858, is a typical example of his style:

Pitsburg, Jan. 27, 18&58

The Plane Deeler:

Sir:

i write to no how about the show bisnes in Cleeveland i have a show consisting in part of a Calforny Bare two snakes tame foxies &c also wax works my wax works is hard to beat, all say they is life and nateral curiosities among my wax works is Our Saveyer Gen taylor and Docktor Webster in the ackt of killing Parkman. now mr. Editor scratch off few lines and tel me how is the show bisnes in your good city i shal have hanbils printed at your offis you scratch my back i will scratch your back, also git up a grate blow in the paper about my show don’t forgit the wax works.

yours truly,

ARTEMUS WARD

Pitsburg, Penny

p S pitsburg is a 1 horse town. A. W.

By the start of the Civil War this linguistic grandstanding had earned Ward a large following in the Midwest. In 1861 he moved to New York, where he became an editor and writer at Vanity Fair, a humor magazine (unrelated to the current magazine).  Vanity Fair brought Ward to a national audience, and his popularity soon spread throughout the Civil War North. Ward’s readers even extended to the White House. President Lincoln was such a fan that he read aloud a new Ward piece, “High-Handed Outrage at Utica,” to open an 1862 cabinet meeting. Then he read something else–his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Artemus Ward

In late 1861 Ward capitalized on his new-found fame, launching his first comic lecture tour across the North. By 1863 he was performing to packed houses as far west as California. “Lecturing” on current events and skewering public figures, his act wandered wherever his whims took him. In effect, he became one of the first American stand-up comedians.

At one tour stop in 1863, at Virginia City, Nevada, he met a wily young reporter named Sam Clemens (Mark Twain), whose life would be changed forever by the experience. The two men shared the same sense of humor and, legend has it, the same barrel of whiskey: after a night of raising hell, the Virginia City constable reportedly threatened them with his shotgun. Clemens would be a disciple of Ward’s for the rest of his life.

Ward continued in this fashion, writing, lecturing, and creating publicity everywhere he went. In 1866 he took his talents to England, where he increased his celebrity by performing his act and submitting humor pieces to Punch. And in England he died, of pneumonia, in 1867.

Since his death, Ward has nearly faded into obscurity, and today his name is recognizable to few readers aside from scholars and students of nineteenth century America. As a former English literature major, I fall into the latter category, and so I was overjoyed recently when I stumbled upon a book that was originally purchased by Ward.

Several weeks ago I was browsing the 823s in the Library’s Main Stacks, when I picked off the shelf a first American edition of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (New York: Harper & Bros., 1860).

In itself, this was an interesting find: an early edition of one of the first (and finest) mystery novels. What made the discovery truly exciting was the inscription on the flyleaf, to Geo. Hoyt from one “A. Ward.”  The full inscription reads, “Presented to Geo. Hoyt as a slite Evijence of my regard for his Talenks as a Sculptist. A Ward. Nov. 18, 1860.”

Ward's inscription to Hoyt

Although I had never seen Ward’s handwriting, I was initially convinced that the inscription was authentic due its venturesome spelling choices and wry tone. Examining the book closer, I found that a magazine article, “Artemus Ward at Cleveland,” had been pasted into the front of the book.

The article, published by C. C. Ruthrauff in the October 1878 issue of Scribner’s Monthly (later to become The Century Magazine), details Ward’s relationship with a George Hoyt–the same “Geo. Hoyt” from the inscription. According to the article, Hoyt was the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s chief illustrator when Ward was its local editor. The two collaborated on a number of articles during Ward’s tenure (1858-61), and as a show of his affection for Hoyt’s work, Ward bought for his colleague a copy of the newly published Woman in White, writing the inscription shown above.

Within the year, Ward would leave Cleveland for fame and fortune in the East. Hoyt would stay behind, eventually becoming editor and publisher of the Plain-Dealer. And Hoyt’s copy of The Woman in White would find its way to our University Library, first as part of the Main Stacks collection, and now as a new addition to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library–a small, but valuable, complement to the Franklin J. Meine Collection. RR

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Distinctive Ownership Inscriptions in an Incunable (Incunabula Q. 473 M28p 1482)

Guiniano Maggio. De priscorum proprietate verborum. Venice : Octavianus Scotus, 3 June 1482.

While cataloging a copy of De priscorum proprietate verborum (“On the propriety of ancient words”) by the 15th-century Neopolitan grammarian Guiniano Maggio, I came across two contemporary or near-contemporary ownership inscriptions by one Ludovicus de Galliardis.

One inscription is on the first front fly-leaf recto and comprises the name “Galliardis”, embellished with swoops and curves of pen-work. A face is incorporated into the descender of the capital “G”, and through this clever addition, the initial letter is transformed into a large and ostentatious piece of head-gear, similar to those seen in late medieval panel and manuscript paintings. Another elaborate symbol follows, but I have been unable to determine what this signifies, if anything. It could be another sign of ownership, perhaps incorporating the letters “r” and “t” within a larger initial “I”, but it is hard to tell.

Galliardis made his mark again, this time on the last printed leaf in this volume (M5 recto). Here he chose the odd course of writing the Latin phrase “Ludovicus de Galliardis possidet istum librum” (“Louis de Galliardis owns this book”) in Greek characters. The writer did not mind that several of the Greek letters do not transliterate properly into the Roman alphabet. Instead, he chose letters that looked like their Roman counterparts. For instance, the letter “e” appears twice in this inscription and both times it is represented by the lower-case form of the letter “zeta”, which, of course, corresponds to the Roman “z”, not “e”. Obviously, this Galliardis was an artistically-inclined man who had a grasp on classical languages as well as a quaint sense of humor.

These characteristics may be accounted for if he is one and the same with an “egregius Ludovicus Galliardi, notarius” (“the distinguished Louis Galliardi, notary”), named as a citizen of the town of Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region in south-eastern France. This comes from an entry, dated 6 October 1538, in the minutes of Pierre Deserveta now in the Archives du Départment de la Haute-Savoie. This date fits with the type and style of the inscriptions found in the incunabulum. If indeed the owner of this volume was a notary, then this would explain the elaborate script and the knowledge of Latin, as well as at least some Greek. This also justifies the calligraphic inscription “Juniani Mai[i]” (“Guiniano Maggio”) on the upper wooden board, which has an elegant “J”.

Further documentary evidence points to the possible existence of a family of notaries by the name of Galliard or Galliardi in the area spanning several centuries. The same Pierre Deserveta, in a passage from his minutes dated 12 February 1557, says that one Marin Ruffi was taken into a two-year apprenticeship by Jacques Galliard, notary and citizen of Annecy, to be taught “l’art d’escripture”. Additionally, there was a Johannes or Jean/Jehan Galliardi, also a notary, who is named in two documents from Geneva (some 40 kilometers from Annecy), dated 1464 and 1473, respectively. A manuscript on parchment, dated 20 May 1709, documenting the donation of 10 écus by Jean Dupont to the chapel of Sainte-Marie-aux-neiges in the hamlet of Les Jeurs in exchange for an annual mass to be celebrated there, was drawn up and signed by “Petrus Georgius Galliard, notarius publicus” (“Pierre-Georges Galliard, notary public”) at his home in the town of Martigny-Bourg in the modern-day canton of Valais in Switzerland. His signature is elegant and flowing, reminiscent of those in the 1482 Guiniano Maggio, though indeed these are in the same style as was used by many notaries, secretaries, and other “professional writers” over the centuries.

Geneva and Martigny-Bourg are just over 100 kilometers apart, and so it seems that, over the course of around 250 years or more, there were at least four notaries (Jean/Jehan, Louis, Jacques, and Pierre-Georges) with the name of Galliard or Galliardi in the Haute-Savoie/Geneva/Valais area. How these men were related, if they were at all, is unknown and would take a great deal of investigation to determine.

We are seeking any information that might help to shed light on the Galliard family or on the significance of the mysterious flourish in the first inscription. If you have any suggestions please contact the Non Solus blog moderators or the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. TB

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Contemporary Line-Drawing and Couplet in an Incunable (Incunabula 475 Z42l 1490)

Wilhelmus Zenders de Wert. Lilium grammaticae. Cologne: Heinrich Quentell, 1490

While cataloging a quarto edition of the Lilium grammaticae of Wilhelmus Zenders de Wert, I ran across an interesting drawing on the title-page.  This quaint illustration in black ink shows a man in armor with a head of curly hair, clutching a small sword or dagger in his right hand and extending an unrolled scroll from his left.  The artist has even included what seems to be chain mail below the armor on the figure’s upper body.  While the proportions are far from realistic and the left hand seems to be in an uncomfortably awkward position, this is a fascinating instance of a drawing that makes reference to the work that it accompanies.

The text on the scroll is difficult to make out, but it seems to run thus:  “Eyn schirmer[?] by[n] ich gena[n]t, an dem Lilium grammatice mal[?] beka[n]t” (roughly “A swordsman am I called; in the Lilium grammatice [am I] well-versed”).  Although the word “schirmer” is only conjectured here, it would be in accordance with the presence of the sword.  Judging by the spelling in these verses, the drawing must be contemporary or near-contemporary with the printed text.  Perhaps it was drawn by a schoolboy seeking to alleviate his boredom during a lesson.  Taking this even further, perhaps he or someone he knew (his instructor?) had the surname Schirmer or Schyrmer and this drawing is a visual pun.  One can only guess, since the artist’s identity may never be uncovered.

Our copy is half-bound in modern vellum with decorative paper over paste-boards.  It was acquired from Stonehill Books in 1950.

We are seeking any additions or corrections to the text in the scroll or any thoughts about the illustration itself.  If you have any suggestions please contact the Non Solus blog moderators or the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. TB

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“Among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name”: Gilbert R. Redgrave’s copy of Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica (Incunabula F. 220 P44h 1473)

Petrus Comestor. Historia scholastica. Augsburg: Günther Zainer, 1473.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s copy of Petrus Comester’s Historia scholastica (1473) is one of several books the Library owns from the private collection of Gilbert R. Redgrave.  Gilbert Richard Redgrave (1844-1941) is known primarily to the book world as the editor, with A.W. Pollard, of A Short Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640, also referred to as the STC. However, Redgrave was a man with many varied interests and talents.  As the son of painter Richard Redgrave, Gilbert was also interested in art and published several monographs on the subject.  He was an architect as well as an engineer and published a well-regarded technical study of cement. Redgrave served as an important administrator in the technical education system in Great Britain for many years.  For a more detailed account of Redgrave’s life and achievements see his obituary in The Times of 17 June 1941, p.9.

It was common for Redgrave to write long, learned bibliographical notes on the front fly-leaves of books in his library and this book is no exception.  In his note, Redgrave calls attention to this copy’s excellent state of preservation and the craftsmanship of its printer, Günther Zainer. Redgrave remarks that, “among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name.” Below is a full transcription of his note:

This magnificent work by Günther Zainer of Reuthingen, who was the first printer at Augsburg, and worked there as early as 1468, has, I think, scarcely received its due share of attention at the hands of book-lovers. It would seem from Panzer to have been the third work printed in Germany in Roman type*. Zainer having produced the 1st and 2nd works in the previous year (1472) to the publication of the present volume.

This work is in matchless condition, absolutely perfect, and in the matter both of typography and choice of paper would be hard to rival at the present day.  It is, I think the first work of the German press with wood-cut capitals throughout. The larger capitals are very fair (see particularly the S on the reverse of p XXX which has escaped the attention of the illuminator).

It is a very early example of a book paged throughout with Roman numerals on both sides of the pages.

Panzer makes no mention of the two blanks at the end of the volume and is in error as to the number of pages (he says 224) but he is corrected by Brunet (220). This copy has 222 ff.

There was an edition in 1472 of the New Testament portion of this work at Utrecht by N. Ketelaer and G. de Leempt, the earliest work with a date from that press, but this would appear to be the 1st edition of Comestor’s History. The work was often reprinted before the close of the XV century and it was alas translated into French as a “bible”!

Among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name, Anno Domini 1886.

Gilbert R. Redgrave

————————-

*Nb – The fourth. See Hain *107.

But for a few trifling worm-holes, this work is as perfect as the day it was printed 413 years ago. G.R.R.

On the verso of the last blank folio is a statement that it was to be given, after the owner’s death, to a “Library”? This paraphrase of the Holy Scriptures by Peter the Glutton, was widely regarded in the Dark Ages as the actual bible. G.R.

I think the interlacing I on fol. I is printed from a block.

Redgrave also pasted in a notice he wrote about the book for The British Bookmaker, October 1890, p. 8:

Following in the footsteps of Schoeffer, and taking for his models the usual types of illuminated capitals, came Günther Zainer of Reutlingen, who was the earliest printer of Augsburg, where he set up his press in 1468. He used at first a very beautiful and large gothic type, somewhat resembling that of Gutenberg, but as early as 1472 he supplied himself with Roman characters and printed two works by Isidorus, which are stated by Panzer to be the first books printed in Germany in Roman type. In the following year he issued a complete edition of Comestor’s “Historia Scholastica,” a sort of paraphrase of the bible, and this work is enriched with some hundreds of woodcut, or, as some have thought soft metal, initial letters, evidently intended to be hand-coloured. The initials are in two different sizes, the larger ones, at the beginning of each book, are eight lines in depth, and the smaller ones are three lines deep. There are many different varieties of each letter, and even the large capitals, of which there are twenty-one, are all different. We have reproduced one of these initials, the S on the verso of page 30, which, in our copy of the History, has escaped the notice of the illuminator. It will serve to show how entirely the designer has been guided by the work of the missal-painter, whose art his outlines are intended only to supplement.

The initial “S” mentioned in this notice is reproduced below, as well as Redgrave’s distinctive bookplate from the front paste-down, and the book’s first leaf, showing the distinct woodcut “I”. AD

        

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Heber Copy of Plato’s Works (Incunabula Q. 881 P5.Lf 1491)

Plato. Works. Translated into Latin and edited by Marsilio Ficino. Venice: Bernardo de’ Chori and Simone da Luere for Andreas Torresanus de Asula, 1491.

This 1491 edition of Plato’s works was translated and edited by Marsilio Ficino and published in Venice.  The book has an interesting provenance and contains beautiful hand decoration.  Two identifiable modern owners of the volume were the English book collector Richard Heber and the American government official Joseph C. G. Kennedy.   Two early owners remain unidentified.  We are looking for help from anyone who can identify the intricate coat of arms of an early owner at the foot of the fifth leaf recto, as well as the institution referred to as “Con[ven]tus S[an]cti Dominici Casilensis” in inscriptions on the first and fifth leaves.

 Richard Heber (1774-1833) is one of the greatest book collectors of the nineteenth century and indeed, of all time.  He was a classical scholar and studied at Brasenose College, Oxford.  Heber later served as the MP for Oxford University from 1821-25.  Heber’s library was immense and is estimated to have contained upwards of 150,000 printed volumes housed in at least eight locations at the time of his death.  For more information on Richard Heber, see Arthur Sherbo’s biography (Arthur Sherbo, ‘Heber, Richard (1774–1833)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12854, accessed 23 Sept 2011])

Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy (1813-1887) redesigned and oversaw the U.S. Census in 1850 and 1860.  He rose to prominence as a political figure in Pennsylvania and later lived and worked in Washington DC, where he was fatally stabbed over a business dispute on July 13, 1887. Kennedy’s interest in book collecting is unknown, but his inscription in this volume indicates he purchased it in 1855.

If anyone recognizes the coat of arms which adorns the foot of the fifth leaf recto or has more information about the institution referred to in an ownership inscription as the “Con[ven]tus S[an]cti Dominici Casilensis,” please leave a comment using the icon which appears at the bottom of this entry.  Your help is appreciated! AD

 

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Parfumeries & Robert de Montesquiou

 
Musee retrospectif de la classe 90. Parfumeries (matieres premieres, materiel, procedes et produits) a l’exposition universelle internationale, a Paris. Rapport de M. le comte Robert de Montesquiou
 

[Retrospective Museum of Class 90. Perfumeries (raw materials, equipment, processes and products) at the universal, international exhibition, in Paris. Report by Count Robert de Montesquiou.]

The bureaucratic-looking title is barred by a bold inscription in purple ink, in the unusual, flourishing handwriting of Robert de Montesquiou, a well-known, if misunderstood figure of the Belle Epoque.

Born in one of the oldest families of the French nobility, Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) was a prolific poet, novelist, art critic, chronicler, memoirist, as well as a designer, book collector and patron of the arts. He had ties with countless authors, artists, composers and craftsmen of the time. He was portrayed by numerous artists, including Laszlo, La Gandara, Whistler, and inspired characters in books by J. K. Huysmans, Jean Lorrain, and, most notably, Marcel Proust. His origins, lavish lifestyle and colorful personality contributed to his reputation as a ‘dilettante’, which prevented him from being recognized as the original and talented creator that he was. Montesquiou was a lifelong friend of Proust and served as a mentor before he was surpassed by his pupil, who borrowed some of his traits for his character, Charlus. Their correspondence, held in part in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s Proust collection, is peppered with references to Montesquious many publications, most of which can be found at Illinois either in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research. While they were primarily acquired to support the Professor Philip Kolb research on Proust’s correspondence, they constitute a rare collection of works by an author who was also a bibliophile and an important patron of binders and other book artists of his time.

This book is one of many Musées rétrospectifs published in the wake of the 1900 Paris World Fair, whose mission was to present all domains of knowledge, science and technology in one location. A detailed classification arranged disciplines into twenty groups, which were further subdivided into numbered classes. “Parfumerie”, belonged to class 90 of the chemical sciences group. The planning committee for that class was composed of influential members of the French perfume industry, including Victor Klotz, owner of the Edouard Pinaud perfumery, whose collection of perfume bottles and beauty-objects made up the bulk of the retrospective exhibition at the World Fair.

This Musée rétrospectif is closely related to another book by Montesquiou housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library: Pays des Aromates, of which only 150 copies were printed. Pays des Aromates was commissioned by Mme Victor Klotz on the occasion of the World Fair exhibition, according to biographies. The Musée rétrospectif incorporates a tamer version of Pays des aromates, from which biting anecdotes about thinly veiled contemporaries have been excised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pays des aromates (Land of Scents) provide an overview of perfume usage from Antiquity onward, followed by a detailed commentary of the show, and a detailed catalog of all objects and books from the Victor Klotz collection. The Musée rétrospectif follows the same template, with added descriptions of a few objects and books contributed by other collectors. (Proust reviewed “Pays des aromates” in Chronique des Arts et de la curiositéon 5 January 1901)

Because the Musée rétrospectif is undated, biographers have assumed that it was published at the time of the Fair, which opened on April 15, 1900, and that it therefore preceded Pays des Aromates, which is dated July 10, 1900. The Musée, however, contains a nod to the poem Le coeur innombrable by comtesse Anna de Noailles, whose book first appeared in May 1901. Bibliographie de la France – Journal général de l’imprimerie et de la librairie, which records all books received under French legal deposit laws in biweekly installments, lists Pays des Aromates in its August 18, 1900 issue, while the Musée rétrospectif doesn’t appear until the November 14, 1903 issue, along with a dozen other Musées rétrospectifs of the 1900 World Fair.

Abel Hermant (1862-1950), the recipient of this particular copy of the Musée rétrospectif, was a novelist, playwright and satirical observer of fin-de-siècle Parisian society. He was the brother of Jacques Hermant, the architect in charge of the various “musées centenaux” at the Paris World Fair. Montesquiou, who was famous for his wit, once wrote about Hermant: “L’écrivain le plus charmant, c’est Abel au bois d’Hermant” (“The most charming writer, is Abel Hermant”), which plays on Hermant’s name and “La Belle au Bois Dormant” (“Sleeping Beauty”). The dedication features another play on “pois de senteur” (“sweet peas” or, more literally, “scented peas”). This alludes to the flower of the sweet pea plant and also suggests that each item in the catalog is its own “pea” of “scent”:

     à Monsieur Abel Hermant, ces pois de senteur. Comte Robert de Montesquiou

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Bibliography

Willa Z. Silverman. « Unpacking His Library : Robert de Montesquiou and the Esthetics of the Book in Fin-de-siècle France ». Nineteenth-Century French Studies, vol. 32, issue3&4, Spring-Summer 2004, pp. 316-331

Antoine Bertrand. Les Curiosités esthétiques de Robert de Montesquiou. Genève : Droz, 1996 (2 vols.)

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