(Paris: Chez Cailleau, ca. 1781 [date of calendar]). 95 x 58 mm. (3 3/4 x 2 1/4"). 32,  (calendar), 33-64 pp.
DELIGHTFUL CONTEMPORARY OPEN-WORK CALF over green textured paper, covers with blind-tooled frame and central scene stamped in relief, cut out, and laid over background paper, upper cover depicting a man and woman watching a child play with a squirrel, with the caption "It is very amusing"; lower cover showing a mother and baby watching two children dance, captioned "Let us always be gay, my Queen"; smooth spine tooled with scrollwork, patterned gilt endpapers, all edges gilt. Front pastedown with bookplate of Léon Gruel. ◆Binding lightly rubbed, text block protruding slightly at fore edge, a couple of quires with faint dampstain to lower quadrant, other trivial imperfections, but an excellent specimen, clean and fresh internally, and the fragile binding sound, with all decorative elements well preserved.
From the library of renowned binder and bookbinding historian Léon Gruel, this charming little gift book boasts both an unusual exterior and unusual content. While most almanacs contain useful reference information on government, commerce, agriculture, or weather, in this case the calendar at the center of the work is the only practical element. The text preceding and following it contains two "poissard" plays, a genre of comic romps made fashionable by writer Jean Vadé that is set among the fishwives ("poissardes"), boatmen, and market sellers of Paris. The first and longer work is "The Life and Soul of the Party of Oyster-shuckers and Orange-sellers," and the second is "Parties at the Boondocks." The binding here is an uncommon style, with the blind-stamped leather figures cut out and pasted onto paper boards, giving the effect of carved wood. Like the contents, the scenes on the covers are light-hearted, showing indulgent adults sitting in gardens, watching children at play. The binding on this ephemeral object was intriguing enough to attract the attention of one of the greatest of French binders, Léon Gruel (1841-1923), an expert on the history of his craft who wrote the important reference work "Manuel Historique et Bibliographique de l'Amateur de Reliures." In the course of his research, he amassed an impressive collection of historic bindings, the present one surely being one of the most uncommon and most charming. (ST15895)