([Paris: ca. 1895]). 176 x 96 mm. (7 x 3 3/4"). 65 leaves. Single column, as many as 26 lines per page, in a gothic-style hand.
HANDSOME PURPLE MOROCCO BY GRUEL (stamp-signed on spine), covers with gilt borders and floral cornerpieces, upper cover with gilt monogram, raised bands, compartments all densely gilt, gilt dentelles, silk endpapers, all edges gilt. Rubrics in red, line endings in variations of pink, blue, and gilt paint, many multi-line initials of a similar color scheme, EVERY TEXT PAGE WITH A DIFFERENT WATERCOLOR BORDER incorporating a variety of flowers, insects, birds, nature scenes, and a heavy use of painted gold, WITH THREE FULL PAGE MINIATURES, separate decorative title pages for each section. Blank pages toward the end with a handwritten dedication note and four Baptism or Communion cards pasted in. Eight additional cards noting similar family milestones loosely laid in. Spine and head edge of rear board slightly and uniformly sunned, just a hint of rubbing to extremities, faint offsetting internally, but A FINELY PRESERVED WORK, CLOSE TO PRISTINE INSIDE AND OUT.
In marvelous condition, this is an attractively illustrated and poignant manuscript, a gift from husband to wife at the time of their nuptials, and subsequently treasured by the same family for close to a century. In a touching note toward the end of the manuscript, the happy bridegroom writes: "You desired, my dear wife, that I be the first to write in this book that served you for the first time the day that began our happiness. Receive, my adored angel, the pledge of my eternal love and the assurance that my greatest pleasure will be to see you always happy." As with many family prayer books, the couple recorded the Baptisms and Christenings of their two children (Yvonne and Jacques) at the back of the book, with additional prayer cards for later additions to the family through the 1970s laid in. Illuminated on thick paper, each page is unique and highly imaginative, with different layouts and floral designs, all of which combine original watercolors with effusive painted gold. Especially interesting are the small landscapes that appear interspersed among the flowers and insects that dominate the borders, and one may speculate that these locales had special significance for the couple. In her "Bookbinders and their Craft," Prideaux says that the Gruel firm, founded in 1811, "always had the highest reputation . . . for initiative in artistic matters, as well as for irreproachable execution in the detail of its many-sided achievements." Paul Gruel (1864-1954) took over the firm after the death of his father, the great Léon Gruel, in 1923 and ably directed the operation until his own death, maintaining the atelier's reputation for excellence. Over the years, the firm employed some of the most skillful artisans in the trade, including Prideaux herself. (ST17129-040)