Histoire de 4 fils Aymon, illustrated by Eugene Grasset, 1883. The text is a popular version of the "chansons de geste" of Charlemagne and his barons. This book represents a turning point in the history of illustration, perhaps the first book that was conceived as a coordinated mise-en-page between imagery and text. As such, it is one of the most important Art Nouveau books. The style of the illustrations is a mix of Celtic, Oriental, Arabic and medieval ornaments. E. Grasset worked with Ch. Gillot, the inventor of photo-relief printing, and used this process for this book. One of 100 copies on Chinese paper. The binding is by René Kieffer. The top cover includes a colored cuir ciselé panel by Gustave Guetant.
Le Roman de la Momie, by Théophile Gauthier, illustrated by Georges Rochegrosse. 1920. This binding, an ornate and colorful mix of art nouveau and art deco is by Jean. The cover insides are of leather and silk. Notice that leather is never closed against leather, as the humidity would make the two stick together, hence the silk covered page. At the turn of the last century, the public had a fascination for everything Egyptian. This infatuation translated into books, opera, paintings, music. This "archaeological" novel is about a beautiful love story in ancient Egypt.
The books in France are published in soft covers. They are later bound at the request of individuals. This picture shows the same book in different bindings, made by diverse binders. From left to right: Binding by S. David, R. Aussourd, Hauttecoeur, P. Affolter.
Les Villes Tentaculaires, (The Tentacular Towns), by Emile Verhaeren, illustrated by Frank Brangwyn, 1919. Emile Verhaeren (1855 −1916) was a Belgian poet who wrote in the French language. He was a founder of Symbolism, a late nineteenth-century art movement of French and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In poetry, it included Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Baudelaire; in philosophy, Schopenhauer; in music, Wagner; in the arts, Carlos Schwabe (more on him later in the gallery), Redon, Bakst. Verhaeren deplored the impact of the industrial age on his country and countrymen. The book is bound by arguably the greatest of them all, Marius Michel. He was the first to create a movement that viewed the binding as an expression of the mood and spirit of the author. At first, like the Impressionists in painting, he was viewed as unruly and disrespectful by the Establishment. Soon however, his outstanding skills as a leather craftsman, his harmonious choices of colors, and the variety of his motifs placed his decorative bindings well above those of other binders.
Born in Belgium, Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) was a painter, watercolorist, engraver and illustrator. Along with Diego Rivera and José Maria Sert, he was chosen by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to decorate the concourse of the RCA Building in New York City (1930-34) with murals. With William Walcot (who illustrated Salammbo and Herodias), Whistler, F. Benson, Zorn and others, he was a master of etching.
L’Evangile, (The Gospel), translated to French by Catulle Mendes, illustrated by Carlos Schwabe. 1894. This book retraces the young years of Jesus Christ. The beautiful binding is by Charles Meunier who, on his best days, could almost match Marius Michel. As mentioned earlier, Carlos Schwabe (1877-1926) was a Swiss-German Symbolist painter and printmaker. Among the other books he illustrated are Le Rêve (1892) by Emile Zola, Hesperus (1894) by Catulle Mendes, Les Fleurs du Mal (1900) by Charles Baudelaire.
From 1890, Schwabe lived in France. Devoted to Symbolist ideals, he explored in his work concepts of spiritual enlightenment. This often found expression in perceptions of virginal purity, as depicted in the magnificent original watercolor included in this book. Another picture shows Mary and Joseph guided by the angel. The picture of the woman standing up on a pink cloud and surrounded by flowers is from Hesperus.
Mouki le Délaissé, (Mouki the Forsaken), by André Cuel, illustrated by Edouard Chimot. 1922. One of seven on Japanese paper, including 11 original pencil studies for the illustrations. E. Chimot (1890-1959) is a painter, illustrator who largely devoted his talent to the illustration of books. He studied under Levert and Mossa and was greatly influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Rodin.
By 1931, he had illustrated 18 books of classic literature, including Le Spleen de Paris and Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire, L’enfer by Barbusse. Later, his illustrated books included Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. He worked with artists such as Foujita, Lobel-Riche and was Artistic Director of Les Éditions d’Art Devambez. His illustrations are mostly of beautiful nudes, in erotic poses.