(Paris: H. Piazza et Cie. 1897). 330 x 250 mm. (13 x 9 3/4"). 6 p.l. (first blank), 52, , 53-94, , 95-128 pp.,  leaves. FIRST EDITION. ONE OF 252 COPIES (this copy out of series).
FINE TAN GOATSKIN, INLAID, ONLAID, AND TOOLED IN BLIND BY SUSAN ALLIX, covers with border of onlaid citron morocco, upper cover with two inlaid white morocco calla lilies, and with an inlaid and onlaid abstract design in shades of crimson, light blue, taupe, and tan, accented with many blind-stamped stars; lower cover with small abstract blind and onlaid design similar to that on the upper board, flat spine with title "Ilsée" onlaid as widely-spaced individual letters, purple handmade paper pastedowns, bronze patterned endpapers. Original green printed paper wrappers made into a binding that encloses blank leaves (as bulk to preserve the paper spine). Both morocco and paper volumes housed in a fine custom linen box with leather labels on back and upper cover and felt lining. Embossed half title by Alex Charpentier, and 132 color Art Nouveau lithographs by Alphonse Mucha. A couple of small marginal smudges, minor offsetting to final (blank) page from original wrappers, but A SPLENDID COPY OF A BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED BOOK, now housed in an attractive, unworn binding.
This very attractive binding by versatile American artisan Susan Allix enhances a work that is of considerable interest, no matter its covers. Czech artist Mucha (1860-1939) was a painter and illustrator as well as a designer of advertising materials, carpets, wallpaper, jewelry, and theater sets. If he did not exactly create the Art Nouveau movement, it is not too much to say that his work was central to its development; his production was prolific, and his reputation much enhanced by international exposure at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. With considerably more than 100 lithographs, the present large-format production is one of his major publications. His illustrations, as here, often feature young women in voluminous garments placed in beautifully smooth and flowing visual contexts that often evoke irresistible feelings of relaxation. "Ilsée" is based on Edmond Rostand's "La Princesse Lointaine," which itself derives from the story of a 12th century troubadour, both emphasizing the unattainability of women. After "Ilsée" was commissioned by the publisher Henri Piazza, the author Flers took so long to complete it that Mucha had just 90 days to prepare his 134 colored lithographs before the printing deadline. The role of the Princesse was written for Sarah Bernhardt, who had a happy history with Mucha. In 1894, our illustrator saw a notice of the need for an advertising poster for a play featuring Bernhardt, the most celebrated actress in Paris. Mucha volunteered to produce the poster, which so pleased Bernhardt that she agreed to a six-year contract with the artist for more such work. The cover design here has elements that suggest various types of growth and perhaps even the great cycle of life; whatever feelings it elicits (and whether it relates at all to the content of the book), it is certainly pleasing in terms of the forms and colors that are used in its composition. (ST13115)
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PJP Catalog: CA18BF.003