An Idyll of Seduction, in Handsome Morocco by a Famously Solitary Binder


(Paris: Édouard Pelletan, 1896). 295 x 228 mm. (11 5/8 x 9"). 3 p.l., xi, [4], 16-41, [9] pp., [1] leaf (blank). French translation by André Bellessort. Prefaced by a letter from Anatole France. No. 9 OF 25 COPIES (from a total run of 350) WITH AN ORIGINAL WATERCOLOR by Georges Bellenger and two extra suites of illustrations, signed by E. Froment.

ELEGANT HONEY BROWN MOROCCO, GILT, BY LORTIC [fils], covers with Greek key frame, central panel enclosed by interlocking frames of brown and gilt rules embellished with gilt volutes and flowers, oblique palmette cornerpieces, raised bands, spine compartments with centerpiece formed by drawer-handle tools and palmettes, gilt lettering, wide turn-ins with palmette frame, purple watered silk endleaves, marbled paper flyleaves, all edges gilt. Original paper wrappers bound in. Preserved in a calf-lined marbled paper slipcase. Text in two alternating decorative frames, tailpiece at end, and 12 illustrations (three of them full-page) by Georges Bellenger, engraved by E. Froment, this copy with two additional suites of the 15 engravings (one on japon, one on chine) bound at rear, and WITH AN ORIGINAL WATERCOLOR of two nymphs tormenting a faun SIGNED BY GEORGES BELLENGER. Parallel text in Greek and French on facing pages. Front flyleaf with engraved armorial bookplate. Carteret IV, 377. A couple of tiny dark spots to front board, title page with three small spots of foxing, but A VERY FINE COPY, clean and fresh internally with generous margins, the watercolor on bright stock, and the binding unworn.

From one of the leading publishers of luxury editions during what Ray calls "the golden age of bibliophiles," this is an excerpt from the "Idylls" of Theocritus in a binding from an esteemed Parisian workshop. Marcellin Lortic (1852-1928) was trained by his father Pierre (1822-92), one of the great binders of 19th century Paris; the firm was known for their superb interpretations of traditional styles. Flety notes that unlike his father, Lortic fils handled all aspects of a binding himself, as designer, binder, and gilder. He was an eccentric workaholic, living alone in his workshop and devoting his life to his craft. According to Flety, "his bindings appeared in numerous libraries of great collectors of his time" who showed their satisfaction and appreciation with persistent loyalty. Protective of his reputation--and also loathe to work with others--he refused to hire an apprentice/successor, choosing instead to sell his equipment and tools when he was no longer able to work.

Our text follows in the tradition of an ancient Greek poetic form comprising a conversation between two lovers, often, unsurprisingly, with amorous content--in the present case, seduction leading to marriage. The style was adopted by, and enjoyed a vogue among, Symbolist poets like Paul Verlaine in the 19th century. The illustrations--alive with nymphs, fauns, and other mythological creatures--are the work of Georges Bellenger (1847-1918). He exhibited landscapes and still life paintings in the Paris Salon, but was best known for his lithographs. He received a commendation from the Société des Artistes Français in 1889.