(London: The Walpole Press, 1899). 220 x 140 mm. (8 5/8 x 5 1/2"). Two volumes. Translated by I. G. Burnham. Grand Edition De Luxe, printed on Japon for subscribers only. No. 55 of 1,000 copies.
LOVELY PRUSSIAN BLUE LEVANT BY BAYNTUN (stamp-signed in gilt on front turn-in), raised bands, compartments with gilt lettering, turn-ins with gilt rules and cornerpieces, all edges gilt. With 19 etchings in two states by Édouard Toudouze and etched by François-Xavier le Seur, with lettered tissue guards. Front pastedowns with morocco book label of Doris Louise Benz. Spines very slightly faded, a couple negligible rubbed spots on covers, a few signatures in second volume slightly toned, but A FINE SET, the contents close to pristine and the bindings lustrous.
From an outstanding collection, this appealing bibliophile's edition of a classic French Romantic novel combines a richly hued binding with such deluxe features as multiple states of the illustrations, luxury papers for the text and etchings, and ample margins. A prolific poet, novelist, travel writer, and journalist, Théophile Gautier (1811-72) was one of the century's most popular and influential French writers, partly because he produced weekly dramatic, literary, and art criticism for nearly four decades. He was a fervently Romantic fiction writer at the beginning of his literary career, extraordinarily energetic in his journalistic publications during the bulk of his life, and disillusioned in his last years because of the Franco-Prussian War. The present work, first published in 1835, is loosely based on the life of the formidable Julie d'Aubigny (ca. 1670-1707), a 17th century opera singer and expert swordswoman whose adventurous pursuits included dueling, cross-dressing, and numerous affairs with both men and women. The present edition is greatly enhanced by the detailed and beautifully textured plates after Édouard Toudouze (1848-1907), a well-respected painter and book illustrator who specialized in genre paintings. Our set is in the superior condition typical of the books from the library of Doris Louise Benz (1907-84), who collected fine bindings, the best of the private presses, major English authors, and manuscripts. Dickinson says that because she had acquired things very privately, the book world was shocked at the richness of her collection when it came on the market in 1984. According to the Dartmouth College Library, which was the sole beneficiary of the proceeds from the sale, "Miss Benz was a quiet collector, almost unknown to other collectors and to dealers, except to Col. Marston Drake of the firm of James F. Drake of New York, and to Maggs and Quaritch in London." She wanted her collection broken up and sold so that "others could enjoy the pleasures of identifying, locating, and acquiring books for their own collections," just as she had. (ST13599-28)