ORDINAIRE DE LA SAINTE MESSE. [with] CÉRÉMONIES DU MARIAGE. [and] PRIÈRES POUR LA COMMUNION.
([Paris: Bouasse-Lebel et Marrin, ca. 1909]). 188 x 140 mm. (7 3/8 x 5 1/2"). 72 pp.;  leaf (miniature); XXXII pp.
Tasteful contemporary olive green crushed morocco, each cover WITH A CENTRAL RECESSED PANEL OF MODELLED AND PAINTED LEATHER, that on the upper cover with a portrait of the Virgin Mary within an arched frame of acanthus leaves, that on the lower cover with the coat of arms of the Deburghgraeve family. With text and decorations lithographed, featuring decorative borders and initials throughout, those on 55 pages COLORED AND ILLUMINATED BY HAND, many of these in a Medieval or Renaissance style, others with Japanese or Greek motifs, with a small hand-painted miniature of the Crucifixion against a golden sky, and WITH A FULL-PAGE HAND-PAINTED MINIATURE showing the Flight into Egypt within a decorative border featuring vignettes of a peasant gathering wood and a knight in armor praying. With a hand-painted ribbon bookmark "Souvenir de ma 1ère Communion" dated 6 June 1909; carbon copy of a poem "A la Memoire de ma tres chere et regrettee cousine Mathilde Deburghgraeve-Canal" by Lucy Salze-Bouchet, dated February 1945 (this with short curving tear into one margin). Just the most trivial signs of wear, but A VERY FINE COPY, the vellum leaves quite clean and very bright, with shining decorations, and the binding lustrous and virtually unworn.
Luxuriously lithographed on vellum, handsomely bound, and illuminated and painted by hand in vibrant colors, this charming prayer book was obviously treasured by its owners--the first of whom may have been a young lady who received it on the occasion of her First Communion. The text and decorations here have been reproduced lithographically from a manuscript of the period, being printed apparently by Bouasse-Lebel et Massin--a company specializing in devotional prints and books. (The firm's name appears in very small letters at various places in the volume.) Each leaf contains a different border design inspired by Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, as well as artwork from around the world, in a pleasing pastiche of Western, Egyptian, Japanese, Indian, and Grecian motifs. Many of the borders have been hand-colored and present an array of distinct palettes, usually richly hued, which adds greatly to the book's appeal and the viewer's sense of discovery from page to page. The bespoke binding, featuring the Madonna in profile, beautifully modelled in leather, adds another element of luxury to the book. The coat of arms suggests that it was made for a member of the Deburghgraeve family, and the laid-in poem suggests that it remained with them through the death of the family's matriarch, Mathilde Deburghgraeve-Canal, in 1944. We know that Mathilde had three daughters all born around the turn of the century; based on the presence of a bookmark commemorating a First Communion in 1909, it is likely that the original recipient was among these three young ladies. Bouasse-Lebel was established in 1845 by Eulalie Bouasse-Lebel (1809-98) as a means of supporting herself and her children following the dissolution of her marriage. Though founded under difficult circumstances, Bouasse-Lebel became a very successful enterprise and even earned a papal commendation in 1871 for consistently excellent work. The company was highly regarded for the quality and delicacy of their productions, of which the present work is a choice example. Although individual religious cards printed by Bouasse-Lebel show up fairly frequently, far scarcer are complete books in the estimable condition seen here--particularly those with the kind of deluxe upgrades that make this particular item so desirable. (ST16339)