A Large-Format Deluxe Version of "Revelations" Combining Elaborate Gilt Decoration and Creamy Vellum


(Paris: [Printed by Robert Blanchet for Paul Féraud], 1948). 340 x 263 mm. (13 1/4 x 10 1/2"). 2 p.l., 128 pp., [5] leaves. Translated into French by Maître de Sacy. No. 12 OF 160 COPIES and ONE OF 10 COPIES with an additional suite of plates PRINTED ON VELLUM.

REMARKABLY BEAUTIFUL SMOOTH CALF, CONSPICUOUSLY GILT IN A FANFARE STYLE, BY GRUEL (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with interlacing strapwork and many curling gilt vines, raised bands, spine gilt with twining vine enclosed by double gilt rules, gilt titling, turn-ins ruled and tooled in gilt, dark brown watered silk endleaves, all edges gilt. Original pictorial paper wrappers bound in. Housed in an attractive morocco-backed, suede-lined cloth clamshell box. With 65 small etchings in the text (including historiated initials), an illustrated table of plates, and 30 full-page etchings by Jean Bernard; with an additional suite of the plates printed on vellum, numbered (10/10) and signed by the artist. Vellum lightly rumpled and with occasional (naturally occurring) variations in grain, but A SPARKLING COPY inside and out.

This deluxe illustrated edition of the Book of Revelations is enhanced by a beautifully animated binding and by an additional suite of the evocative etchings, printed on creamy vellum. The text here includes the three Epistles of Saint John, in addition to the Apocalypse, translated by Le Maistre de Sacy (1613-84), a member of the Jansenists, a French Roman Catholic sect strongly opposed to the teachings of the Jesuits. A major theologian, de Sacy spent two years in the Bastille for his heterodoxy. The binding's fanfare style of decoration was popular in France during de Sacy's lifetime. The main features of this style, in Glaister's words, "are interlacing ribbons" that form "compartments of various shapes, with emphasis given to a central compartment. This interlacing ribbon is bounded by a double line on one side and a single one on the other." Ornaments made with small hand tools "fill all the compartments except the central one and almost completely cover the sides." The fanfare style is perhaps most frequently associated with the work of Nicolas and Clovis Eve, court binders and booksellers to successive kings of France from about 1578 to 1634. It is generally believed that the term "fanfare" actually took its name from an early 17th century music book (the title of which begins with the word "fanfare") acquired by the bibliophile Charles Nodier in 1829. The book was bound for Nodier by the famous Parisian binder Joseph Thouvenin, using an appropriately retrospective design in imitation of the Eves' style, which from that point forward came to be known as "fanfare." This retrospective binding was executed by one of the greatest French bookbinding families. In her "Bookbinders and their Craft," Sarah Prideaux says that the Gruel firm, founded in 1811, "always had the highest reputation . . . for initiative in artistic matters, as well as for irreproachable execution in the detail of its many-sided achievements." Paul Gruel (1864-1954) took over the firm after the death of his father, the great Léon Gruel, in 1923 and ably directed the operation until his own death, maintaining the atelier's reputation for excellence. Over the years, the firm employed some of the most skillful artisans in the trade, including Prideaux herself. The moving illustrations are the work of Jean Bernard (1908-94), a prolific book illustrator and a leader in the French artisans' association, Les Compagnons du Devoir. The etchings show to especially fine effect on vellum.

Keywords: Gruel