(Paris: Imprimé pour Les Amis de Livres par Chamerot et Renouard, 1893). 275 x 190 mm. (10 3/4 x 7 1/2"). 4 p.l., 159, . No. 55 OF 115 COPIES, printed for M. Van der Vrecken de Bormans.
DAZZLING CONTEMPORARY SCARLET MOROCCO, VERY ORNATELY DECORATED IN GILT, SILVER, AND BLACK AS WELL AS INLAID, BY MARIUS MICHEL (stamp-signed on front doublure), covers elaborately embellished with a floral frame enclosing a large central panel filled with diapered compartments formed by gently curving black leaves, each compartment containing a floral sprig tooled in silver and gold, flat spine with similarly decorated ogival compartments and gilt titling, OLIVE BROWN MOROCCO DOUBLURES filled with rows of inlaid red carnations (with dark green pedicels), leather hinges, jacquard silk endleaves in pink, blue, and green pattern, marbled flyleaves, all edges gilt. Original white textured paper wrappers bound in. In a (slightly worn) brown morocco-trimmed marbled paper slipcase. With eight pleasing color engravings by Rops (4), Robaudi (2), and Garnier (2) depicting scenes from the story, accompanied by 29 proofs in red, yellow, cyan, and black & white, as called for in the colophon. A Large Paper Copy. Front flyleaf with INK INSCRIPTION SIGNED BY MARIUS MICHEL and dated Mai 1920, noting that he had bound this copy for M. Van der Vrecken de Bormans in 1896 for a (very substantial) price of 600 francs. Carteret IV, 407; Vicaire I, 47. Three blank front flyleaves with narrow, faint brown horizontal blemish across most of the page (apparently a tape shadow); in all other ways, A BEAUTIFUL COPY, clean, fresh, and bright internally, IN A PRISTINE BINDING.
This ravishing object is a bibliophile's treasure: an illustrated luxury edition in Large Paper format of Voltaire's philosophical novel, offered in a binding from a pre-eminent Parisian atelier. The impressive binding stands out, not only because of its remarkable condition, but also because of the variety and unerring execution of its decorative elements--from the vigorous use of black, gold, and silver on the cover and spine to the particularly animated inlaid morocco doublures. Considered the best binder of his generation as well as the founder of modern French bookbinding, Henri Marius Michel (1846-1925) began his career in the workshop established by his father Jean in Paris in 1849, where they produced distinguished bindings in the prevailing historical styles for two decades. After the father's death in 1890, the firm came to even greater prominence when Henri began producing bindings in a completely new and original style that did nothing less than change the course of modern bookbinding in France. According to Duncan & De Bartha, Henri believed passionately "that bookbinding needed a new vocabulary of ornamentation in order to express the mood and spirit of contemporary authors." The "vocabulary of ornamentation" he developed was based on nature, the revolutionary "La Flore Ornamentale" style that he unveiled at the 1878 International Exposition. His favored floral forms dominate the present binding, both as inlays and as silver and gold tooling. Our binding was commissioned by Paul Van der Vrecken, Baron de Bormans, an attaché at the Belgian Embassy in Paris, and a bibliophile who belonged to "La société du livre contemporain" as well as the "Cercle Parisien du livre." The 600 francs the binding cost would have bought a very great deal in France at the end of the 19th century. Another copy of this work (with the same special features and also bound in inlaid morocco by Marius Michel) sold at Sotheby's in 1995 for the hammer price equivalent of $31,200. (ST17884)