(Paris: Société des Beaux Arts, ca. 1890). 270 x 200 mm. (10 5/8 x 7 7/8"). 1 p.l., 328 pp. ONE OF 20 LETTERED COPIES OF THE EDITION DE DEUX MONDES (this copy out of sequence, lettered with a star stamped in red).
SUMPTUOUS AZURE CRUSHED MOROCCO, LAVISHLY GILT AND INLAID in the Art Nouveau style, covers with large central fleur-de-lys in gilt and maroon morocco within an elaborate frame of lily bouquets and garlands inlaid in maroon, orange, and white; raised bands, spine gilt in compartments, the smaller ones at head and tail with an inlaid maroon fleur-de-lys, large central compartment with a spray of lilies in maroon and white, and two compartments with gilt titling; very wide turn-ins with elaborate gilt floral and foliate decoration enclosing BURNT ORANGE MOROCCO DOUBLURES, front doublure featuring an oval inset of white kidskin (or perhaps vellum) with a hand-colored engraving of a female nude, ivory watered silk endleaves, blue marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed, leaves partially unopened. WITH 12 DELICATELY WATERCOLORED PORTRAITS OF WOMEN, including frontispiece. Ray, "French," p. 377. ◆Spine faintly sunned, small scratch on front cover, otherwise IN SPARKLING CONDITION INSIDE AND OUT.
This is an appealing specimen of Belle Epoque opulence: a fine luxury volume attractively printed with vast margins on Japanese vellum, exuberantly bound in inlaid morocco, and well-illustrated. Ray mentions the illustrations here as among the most outstanding of their era and cites an 1895 survey in which "Pastels" is listed among the top 10 modern French illustrated works. This item appears to be part of a series of luxurious volumes of literary works handsomely bound and illustrated by some of the best contemporary artists. Alcide Théophile Robaudi (1850-1928) was a French painter best known as the illustrator of deluxe editions from publishers Conquet, Hachette, Calmann-Levy, and Lemerre Ferroud of works by famous writers. "Pastels" consists of a series of short stories about young Parisian women, told in the first person. Although Bourget (1852-1935) is now remembered best as a critic, he was a friend of Henry James, and, like him, he wrote popular novels of psychological insight. The Société des Beaux Arts produced lovely limited editions, usually numbering around 500, and the present volume comes from the supremely luxurious, most strictly limited issue of the work, dressed up in an elegant, animated binding. (ST17769d)