A Finely Printed and Illustrated Bibliophile's Copy, In a Remarkable Cuir Ciselé Meunier Binding


(Paris: A. Quantin, 1880). 328 x 222 mm. (13 x 8 3/4"). 2 p.l., xlix, [2], 274 pp. No. 47 OF 100 COPIES, this one of 45 on Chine paper (there were also 10 on Japon and 45 on Whatman paper).

DRAMATIC DARK BROWN CRUSHED MOROCCO WITH RICHLY SYMBOLIC CUIR CISELÉ DECORATION BY CHARLES MEUNIER (stamp-signed in gilt and dated 1902 on front turn-in), upper cover with a very large central sharkskin panel onlaid with carved tan leather pieces representing the Lilith demon as an eagle with human breasts, the bird’s claws clutching a rod from which spring twining branches of holly, above the eagle a cartouche of purple calf carved with gilt tile, and above this, a screeching owl with wings spread, the lower cover with similar sharkskin panel (though within a calf frame that includes floral cornerpieces), this onlaid with a carved tanned leather daisy (marguerite), turn-ins with gilt rules and inlaid red and tan morocco flowers, rust-colored watered silk endleaves, marbled flyleaves, all edges gilt. With 11 etchings by Adolphe Lalauze (portrait frontispiece, one text-framing vignette, one headpiece, and eight full-page engravings), all in two states, one on Japon nacre and one on Japanese paper; woodcut headpiece vignettes by Meaulle after Wogel and Scott; this copy EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED with seven etchings by Laurens engraved by Champoillon, each in two states. A Large Papaer Copy. Five of the plates printed on Japanese paper with minor marginal foxing and offsetting to the back of the accompanying plate on Japon nacre (image side unaffected), but A FINE COPY--clean, fresh, and bright internally, with vast margins, and IN A GLEAMING, UNWORN BINDING.

This is a finely printed bibliophile's copy of Goethe's masterpiece, with two sets of illustrations that display varying views of the characters and scenes, all in a splendid binding by the always-innovative Charles Meunier. We have seen another binding for an edition of "Faust" where Meunier utilized the imagery of death in a very straightforward fashion, with a large skeleton on the cover and repeated skull inlays on the doublures. Here, he has been more subtle in his symbolism, employing the screech owl to signal impending death and the Lilith demon to embody the wickedness that seduced Faust. The simple daisies on the lower cover represent both the name and the innocence of the tragic heroine, Marguerite--her name being the French word for daisy, a flower symbolic of youth and naïveté. Apprenticed to Gustave Bénard at the age of 11, Meunier (1865-1940) worked for a time in the atelier of Marius Michel, and then set up his own studio when he was 20. According to Duncan & De Bartha, he drew "on both traditional and modern techniques and forms of decoration, [mixing] classical punches . . . with newly fashionable incised and modelled leather panels." This eclectic approach did not lead to the kind of popularity enjoyed by some of our binder's most distinguished competitors, and partly as a protest in recognition of this, "Meunier declined to participate in the 1900 Exposition, as he felt that the Grand Prix would automatically be awarded to Marius Michel (which it was). He staged his own show at his studio on the Boulevard Malesherbes and received as much magazine coverage as the participants at the Exposition." He retired from active binding in 1920. The illustrations by Lalauze and Laurens also provide an interesting contrast in artistic vision. Lalauze's scenes are darker and more genuinely frightening, while those by Laurens have a more light-hearted, sometimes almost comic quality. The present item was once owned by eminent bibliophile Lucien Gougy (being Lot 309 in his sale at Drouot, 19-21 November 1934). Sometimes Meunier fashioned his special "cut leather" bindings for works of indifferent value and interest; here, the high quality paper, the impeccable printing, the fine artwork, and the various forms of the plates provide a lovely and satisfying combination comensurate with the remarkable exterior.

Price: $16,000.00