Henri Beraldi's Untrimmed Copy


(Paris: l'Imprimerie de Didot jeune, l'An IV [1796]). 362 x 268 mm. (14 1/4 x 10 1/2"). 4 p.l., 167 pp. ONE OF 100 LARGE PAPER COPIES with color plates (from a total edition of 300).

Contemporary brown half calf over marbled boards, smooth spine with blind-ruled panels, tan morocco label, edges untrimmed. WITH FOUR ANIMATED COLOR PLATES after Nicolas André Monsiau, three with original tissue guards. A Large Paper Copy. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate, front free endpaper with red morocco ex-libris of Henri Beraldi. Cohen-de Ricci 1005; Ray 87; Graesse VI, 233. Spine, boards, and extremities variably rubbed, shallow chip to head of spine, but the original unrestored fragile binding entirely solid. Isolated trivial marginal spots or smudges, but A VERY FINE COPY INTERNALLY--quite clean, fresh, and bright, with vast margins, and with the plates very pleasingly colored.

This is the attractive Large Paper Copy, with distinguished provenance, of a collection of farces set among the market vendors of Paris. It was written by French playwright Jean-Joseph Vadé (1720-57), the author credited with inventing the "poissard" genre, which takes its name from the fishwives who are frequent characters in the sketches that take place in the main food market of Paris, Les Halles. After failing to produce a successful serious drama, Vadé turned to comedy, where his natural wit and verve gave him a great advantage. A sly sense of humor and a talent for observing people led to a series of short plays featuring realistic characters very different from the stylized roles that were then the vogue in French drama. His empathetic characterizations of life among the lowly brought him the nickname "the Corneille of Les Halles." The other poissards in this volume are the work of Vadé's friend Louis de Tilloy (1711-92), who wrote under the name Lécluse. In addition to writing plays, this intriguing artist was an actor, a friend of Voltaire, and dentist(!) to the king of Poland.

A noted painter of both classical and modern subjects, Monsiau (1754-1837) was also an illustrator whose "abundant and interesting work in this line" is, in Ray's opinion, underrated, even though it has the merits of being simple, natural, lively, and piquant. Those traits are well employed in these amusing illustrations depicting the characters who inhabit these tales.

Former owner Henri Beraldi (1849-1931) was perhaps the most distinguished and knowledgeable writer on French bindings of the 19th century. His collection of French illustrated books and French bindings was considered to be among the very best in the world. One can see how the present volume would have attracted such a discerning bibliophile: the vast margins of the untrimmed Large Paper Copy lend a spaciousness to the text, the coloring is beautiful, and the condition beyond reproach.

Price: $2,500.00