With 50 Color Plates of Classical Stage Costumes, by a Victim of the French Revolution


(Paris: Drouhin, 1790). 265 x 205 mm. (10 3/8 x 8"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.

VERY ATTRACTIVE CONTEMPORARY MARBLED CALF, GILT IN A NEOCLASSICAL DESIGN, covers with a cresting palmette frame featuring ornate urn ornaments at corners, flat spine divided into compartments by Greek key roll, floral spray centerpieces, one green and one black label, marbled endpapers. With 55 PLATES OF COSTUMES designed by Philippe Chéry and engraved by Pierre-Michel Alix, 50 of these PRINTED IN COLOR, five in black and white (a couple of these with color highlights applied by hand), and with a color portrait of the author (from the 1802 edition) tipped in at front. Colas 717; Hiler, p. 542; Lipperheide 3203; Cohen-de Ricci 227; Brunet IV, 1135. One corner worn to board, joints and extremities lightly rubbed, but the bindings lustrous and generally very attractive. First volume slightly browned throughout, second volume occasionally so, volume II with two-inch marginal stain to upper gutter, affecting four quires and six plates (but not touching text or images), two plates with pen marks in margins, touching lettering but not image, other trivial defects, but still an excellent copy internally, the colors especially clear and pleasing,

This is an elegant production, with the Neoclassical binding being the perfect complement to the color engravings of ancient Greek and Roman costumes that illustrate the present history of theatrical attire. In the two volumes here, theater critic and historian Jean Charles Le Vacher de Charnois (1749-92?) covers Classical tragedies and comedies as well as later interpretations of these dramas by playwrights including Racine. Le Vacher de Charnois intended a series of books encompassing, as the title indicates, theatrical costumes from all nations and from the ancient to the modern; however, the French Revolution interrupted his scheme, and as a monarchist, he was imprisoned in 1792 for his writings in support of the aristocracy. It was long thought that he had died in the massacres at the Abbaye prison in September of that year, but later research indicates that he may have been executed during the Reign of Terror in 1794. The artists who illustrated this work were at the opposite end of the politcal spectrum. Painter Philippe Chéry (1759-1838) studied with Jacques-Louis David, and adopted his master's passionate support for the Revolution as well as his Neoclassical style. Engraver Pierre-Michel Alix (1762-1817) was a specialist in color printing best known for his portraits of leaders of the French Revolution, and later of Napoleon and First Empire dignitaries. While the handsome binding here is unsigned, the palmette roll on the covers is very similar (but not identical) to one used by Bozerian (see Culot, "Jean-Claude Bozerian," roll #44 and plate #XXIV). Perhaps our binder had trained in that atelier, as the design and workmanship are certainly of that level.