(Paris: Gabriel de Gonet, 1852). 279 x 191 mm. (11 x 7 1/2"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.
WHIMSICAL ROYAL BLUE STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT AND INLAID, BY CHARLES MEUNIER (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers each featuring inlaid gray frame set with 24 medallions containing gray and red ladybirds as well as inlaid citron morocco butterflies at corners, raised bands, spine compartments inlaid in similar fashion, gilt titling, turn-ins each with 33 inlaid ladybirds, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed and gilt on the rough (a tiny, invisible repair at the bottom of one joint). Original (slightly soiled) printed paper wrappers bound in. With tondo portrait frontispiece of Jacques Cazotte, two additional engraved and hand-colored titles, and 32 DELIGHTFUL HAND-COLORED PLATES, as called for, consisting of 17 full-page plates and 15 section titles with vignette, the engravings DEPICTING INSECTS DRESSED AS HUMANS, OR HUMANS SPORTING COLORFUL BUTTERFLY WINGS. Vicaire VI, 246. Spines very slightly sunned towards blue-green, isolated trivial foxing or smudges to margins, otherwise A VERY PRETTY SET IN FINE CONDITION, bright and clean inside and out, the plates richly colored, and the text with especially ample margins.
This is a delightful anthropomorphic work in a charming binding quite unlike the dramatic cuir-ciselé productions for which Meunier (1865-1940) is famous, but which is quite appropriate for these lepidoptera fantasias. The style here is delicate and romantic, with graceful gilt tooling and elegant inlays. Meunier was legendary among French binders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries for his energy and imagination. Apprenticed to Gustave Bénard at the age of 11, he 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. Pierre Amédée Varin (1818-83) was the scion of a family of engravers and was particularly known for his imaginative illustrations of hybrid creatures and anthromorphic vegetables. While fanciful, the plates here also include realistic depictions of a variety of butterflies, identified by their scientific names. The fantastical tales by Meray and Nus were inspired by J. J. Grandville's "Les Métamorphoses de Jour" and by the fairy tales of Jacques Cazotte (1719-92), who appears as a character in the first story. (ST12435)
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PJP Catalog: 71.196