(Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1886). 514 x 381 mm. (20 1/4 x 15"). 1 p.l. (half title), 38,  pp. EXEMPLAIRE RESERVE, THE ARTIST'S COPY.
MARVELOUS DARK BROWN MOROCCO INLAID IN THE "FLORE ORNAMENTALE" STYLE BY HENRI MARIUS MICHEL (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with an all-over design of entwined floral and foliate sprays incorporating many morocco inlays in shades of brown, tan, orange, navy, teal, and red, raised bands, spine compartments similarly inlaid with floral and foliate designs, turn-ins tooled with multiple gilt rules, silk brocade endleaves woven in a multi-color millefleurs pattern, all edges gilt. In the original morocco-trimmed chemise and matching slipcase. WITH 119 ILLUSTRATIONS, comprised of 25 plates and initials, all with extra proofs in three states; three tailpieces and an extra title, each of these with additional proofs in three states; and publisher's vignette with extra proof in two states, all by Edmond Heouin and Emile Boilvin after Bida (the as-issued plates and initials with [somewhat foxed] captioned tissue guards). Carteret IV, 87. Faint, never serious foxing on perhaps half the leaves, otherwise A VERY FINE COPY, the leaves clean and fresh with vast margins, and THE MAGNIFICENT BINDING LUSTROUS AND UNWORN.
This is among the most impressive examples one will ever see of Marius Michel the younger's ground-breaking and influential "La Flore Ornamentale" bindings, covering here a unique copy of a monumental edition of the "Song of Songs." Considered the best binder of his generation as well as the founder of modern French bookbinding, Henri Marius Michel (1846-1925) began his career in the atelier established by his father Jean in Paris in 1849, where they produced distinguished work in the prevailing historical styles for two decades. After the father's death in 1890, the firm came to even greater prominence when Henri began producing bindings in a completely new and original style that did nothing less than change the course of modern bookbinding in France. According to Duncan & De Bartha, Henri believed passionately "that bookbinding needed a new vocabulary of ornamentation in order to express the mood and spirit of contemporary authors." The "vocabulary of ornamentation" he developed was based on nature, the revolutionary "La Flore Ornamentale" style that he unveiled at the 1878 International Exposition. Marius Michel fils was at first viewed as impudent and rebellious, and his work was objected to on theoretical grounds as being too much like "art," and too little like a product of the binder's craft. But, in the words of Duncan & De Bartha, "the young man's fervent convictions, as well as his superb technical skills, as both a binder and a gilder, won him an increasing number of supporters. By 1885 his designs were seen as a viable alternative to traditional bindings for certain books." Other binders began to imitate his approach, but Marius Michel the younger was the "undisputed leader of the new movement, [his] incomparable technique, harmonious selection of color, and infinite variety of plant motifs [placing] his work above those of his contemporaries." Our unique copy of this luxury edition of the "Song of Songs" was reserved especially for artist Alexandre Bida, and was augmented with nearly 100 additional proofs done on various papers. A pupil of Eugène Delacroix, Bida (1813–95) was a painter of the Romantic school who became a master of Orientalism, a term used by art historians for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Middle Eastern and East Asian culture by artists from the West. Notable recent exhibitions of his work have been held at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris in March of 2012 ("Les Juifs dans l'Orientalisme") and at the National Gallery of Art in April of 2013 ("Orientalism: A Selection of Prints and Drawings"). In addition to the volume reserved for Bida, 10 special copies of this edition were printed on Chine, and ABPC and Rare Book Hub describe auctions between 1987 and 2015 in which such copies in Marius Michel bindings similar to ours were sold (for as much as $35,200 and $40,600, including buyer's premiums). (ST12786)