Monday, 30 April 2018

New Addition: Paris High Society as Insects!

Le Charivari (The Hullabaloo). Year 2, No. 333 (Wednesday, May 7, 1835) Paris. Paperback Quarto, 4 pp.

This issue of the groundbreaking Romanticist satirical magazine Charivari, in addition to various satires of contemporary Parisian culture, features a weird and whimsical cartoon by the ground-breaking Romanticist cartoonist Granville, who pioneered the humorous anthropomorphic style that has since become the paradigm for both children's cartoons. (Compare to his cover illustration for Alphonse Karr's underground journal The Wasps in this archive.) Here, he portrays a high-society ball in the form of a swarm of dancing insects, each representing an individual well-known to the Parisian dance scene; each individual is captioned.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Major New Collection: Célestin Nanteuil & three generations of devotees!

This major new collection of 94 items consists of a massive, lavishly produced, DIY folio of over 80 lithograph reproductions of an independent Nanteuil archive assembled in the early 20th Century by the playwright and theatre manager Paul Gavault and an accompanying monograph; this is the personal copy of its editor/publisher, the Swiss concert violinist Nathan Chaïkin, and is accompanied by ten letters between him and his allies in the project, and three clippings and transcriptions of relevant articles. Its addition to the Revenant Archive links together Célestin Nanteuil, the groundbreaking but now forgotten Romanticist printmaker, with three subsequent generations of archivist-historians who have championed his memory and work. It seems that only three copies of this folio are publicly available in the United States, two listed on WorldCat and the other at Princeton.

A survey of the collection's significance and history will be followed first by a catalogue of Chaïkin's correspondence, then that of the included articles and clippings, and finally the catalogue of the folio itself.

The links of the inter-generational chain initiated around 1830 are manifest here:

#1 – Célestin Nanteuil: Avant-Garde Lithographer

Célestin Nanteuil was a co-founder of the seminal avant-garde collective known successively as the Petit-Cénacle, the Jeunes-France, and the Bouzingo (1829-34). One of the key figures in underground Romanticism, and particularly of the subcurrent of Medievalist Romanticism, Nanteuil exercised an extremely important, though forgotten, influence on the direction of 19th Century illustration, lithography, and cartooning.  While French Romanticist art is now overwhelmingly identified with the thick brushwork, savage colour, and dynamic composition, Nanteuil represented a completely different version of graphic Romanticism which began to flourish briefly under his influence in the 1830s and '40s, and then disappeared. This other Romanticism was rooted in Nanteuil's early experimental re-visioning of Medieval aesthetics, in which design took precedence over illusionistic modeling, the picture plane flattened and segmented, architecturally designed, broken into enclaves and tableaux linked thematically or narratively, integrated with text and sometimes even musical notation. His lithography was more constrained by commercial necessity (most were commissions) than his earlier etchings, but many of these experimental elements remain visible, and were passed on by Nanteuil to countless lithographers in his work. Despite his influence, Nanteuil has been almost entirely effaced in art history in the century and a half since his death, his legacy maintained by only a few persistently dedicated critics, historians and collectors in each generation – Champfleury, Charles Monselet, Aristide Marie, Paul Gavault, Nathan Chaïkin, Olchar Lindsann . . .

#2 – Paul Gavault: Theatre-maker & Collector

Paul Gavault, who was seven years old when Nanteuil died, was a successful playwright and managed several Parisian theatres throughout his career, including the prestigious Odéon. He was also a passionate collector of Romanticist illustration and lithography, and amassed a large archive not only of Nanteuil's prints, but also of more than 80 of the original sketches and drawings from which they were derived. Upon his death, a large portion of his library was bought by the historian of Romanticism Aristide Marie, who drew upon it when writing the only full-length biography and monograph of the artist (also represented in this archive, along with his books on Louis Boulanger and Henri Monnier)

#3 – Nathan Chaïkin: Musician & Art Historian

Nathan Chaïkin was Swiss violin virtuoso, whose family had been friends with the avant-garde composer Honegger, and who premiered works for the latter and Paul Hindemeth and worked personally with Stravinsky on his production of the latter's own The Rake's Progress. Chaïkin was also a self-taught art historian, specializing in Japanese prints and, most saliently for us here, a passionate advocate of Célestin Nanteuil's legacy. He pointed Nanteuil's influence (often personal as well as aesthetic) on most of the major developers of french cartooning as well as the related Realist movement: Daumier, Nadar, Bertall, Doré, et. al, as well as his transmission of Goya's visual idioms into French lithography. 

Devoting a significant part of his intellectual work to researching and promoting Nanteuil's work, Chaïkin developed an international network of archivists, curators, collectors, and DIY researchers. At some point in the early 1980s he "re-discovered" and acquired Gavault's long-forgotten archive, still intact. (It is unclear where the collection now resides; it may be in the possession of a private collector who wanted to remain anonymous.) He decided to manifest his work with Nanteuil into a massive, self-published but lavishly produced set of lithographic reproductions, pairing each of the sketches and drawings in Gavault's archive with the finished piece. To do so he activated his research network, filling gaps in the Gavault collection and amassing bibliographic and other information on Nanteuil – a process reflected in the ten original letters of Chaïkin's included in the collection. The result of his labour is the hard-bound folio of 81 unbound lithographs, each reproducing both the sketch and final product of a Nanteuil print, which forms the bulk of this collection.

#4 – Olchar E. Lindsann: Writer, Historian & Archivist

The copy of Chaïkin's folio held by the Revenant Archive was Chaïkin's personal copy, and was (not surprisingly) kept in near-pristine condition. Tipped into it are his relics of of the project's project and completion: 10 letters to and from correspondents regarding the project, and 3 clippings and transcriptions of reviews and articles about his archival work. 
This collection includes only reproductions of lithographs, and only pieces originally owned by Gavault (in drawn and/or printed form), and may also reflect Chaïkin's taste in selection; it thus represents only a part of Nanteuil's full range in terms of media, content, and aesthetic approach. The Revenant Archive also contains over a dozen of Nanteuil's other prints (both etchings and engravings) and illustrated books. The archive's publishing imprint Revenant Editions (part of mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press) has published Nanteuil's work in Issues 2 and 3 of its periodical Rêvenance, in the Liberté histoico-anthology, as frontispieces and endpieces to other chapbooks, and has issued an absurdist anti-biographical zine about him. A (much less deluxe and ambitious, but also much more affordable) folio of reproductions of Nanteuil's work is planned for 2019 or '20.

Catalogue & Images of the Collection


Friday, 20 April 2018

New Addition: Bohemian Publisher's Dictionary of Argot

Lucien Rigaut, Dictionnaire d'argot moderne (Dictionary of Modern Jargon). 1888. Second Edition, with supplements. Paul Ollendorff: Paris. Hardbound Quarter-Leather Sextidecimo, 407 pp.

This dictionary has already led to the solution of some tricky translation riddles, especially those of stories of the avant-comedian Alphonse Allais. This is scarcely a coincidence, for the book derives precisely from Allais' experimental Bohemian milieu; the publisher, Paul Ollendorf, was Allais' own publisher throughout most of his career. Ollendorf was heavily immersed in the Bohemian avant-garde, and his press specialized in work by writers associated with the Chat Noir Cabaret and the Chat Noir, Fumistes, Hydropathes, Hirsutes, Incohérents, and other groups that partook of both intellectual and urban 'degenerate' culture. It is to precisely such writers (and their future translators) that a dictionary such as this caters.

Though the word argot can be translated as slang, it has a more specific sense in French, and particularly in counter-cultural discourse of the 19th Century. Argot often carries the sense of a system or relatively coordinated lexicon specific to a particular milieu – echoes of the medieval the medieval Thieves' Jargon. The early avant-garde was distinguished by their conscious development of a specifically 'romanticist argot' inspired by both vernacular street jargon and Masonic coded language, which made their conversations nearly incomprehensible to others. Much of this system of vocabulary was adopted by the emerging Bohemian subculture, from thence to wider Parisian street-slang, and appears herein. The dictionary's title indicates that its main focus is not the rich history of Parisian slang reaching back past Villon, but the modern developments since the democratization of culture during the 19th Century – providing a linguistic snapshot of the intersection of hyper-intellectual and lower-class culture during a period of immense social change.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

New Manuscript Addition: Paul Fort manuscript!

Paul Fort, "Chevalerie; ou le Geste inutile" ("Chivalry; or the Pointless Tale"). Undated, c. 1890–1940. Handwritten Manuscript.

Paul Fort was one of the most important links between the Symbolist and Cubist/Dada generation; himself mentored by Mallarmé, during World War I he was among the first writers of his generation to support the activities of the young poets who would soon become the Paris Dada group. To my knowledge, this poem was not published during Fort's lifetime, but will be printed in facsimile and translation in Rêvenance #4. The raw, literal translation is as follows:

I have slain Death – by the light of my sword
Death's going to return and play dolls.

New Addition: Célestin Nanteuil's 'Gargantua'

Célestin Nantueil, Gargantua. (Undated, c.1840–50). Lithograph.

In this avant-Romanticist “portrait” of Rabelais' medieval satirical character, Gargantua's head and body has been replaced with a scene of the industrializing city of Paris as a collapsing colonial vortex drawing in people and goods from across the world. The skewed perspective, refusal of illusionistic depth and scale, and the compositional emphasis on the frame reflect Nanteuil's radicalisation of medieval aesthetics. The Revenant archive contains a letter by the art historian and Nanteuil specialist Nathan Chaikin in which he attempts to locate a print from this run (fortunately, as the print in his own set of reproductions shows, he tracked down a copy in better shape than this!)

Sunday, 4 March 2018

New Addition: Jules Claretie postcard with handwritten note

Jules Claretie Postcard. Undated, c. 1900. Double-sided Postcard. Printer Unknown. With letter from unknown Correspondent to Mlle. Gonnard[?], c. 1903.

As a socialist activist, an archivist-historian of revolution and of the early avant-garde, a theatre director, and a novelist and playwright, Jules Claretie is heavily represented in this archive (see Historiography, Personal Artifacts, and The Gazette Anecdotique, to which he was a frequent contributor.) It was probably as playwright that Claretie earned enough celebrity to lead to the production of postcards sporting his image, such as this one from the turn of the century (while Claretie was still alive) which was used by an unidentified person writing to a young child, probably a niece.

Below is my closest attempt at a transcription; I welcome corrections and additions:

Mademoiselle [Gonnard]
chez Mme. [Ren...?]
Villa Dubois
Rue des Allimettes
Cher / [Sancoins]

postmarked c. 26 Oct. 1903?

Tu es heureuse, ma chère petite, [auprès] de [ta] bonne cousine, [qui] [ne] [suit] [qui] [fuire/faire] [pour] [l'intéresses] tu vois de jolis pays, [des] [sites] [enchanteurs], profite bien de [le] [bon] moment – [qui] comptera j'en suis [sure] un numbre de tes [meilleurs] souvenirs, et lorsque tu [reviendrais] près de nous, tu [xxxx] à nous renconter mille et mille choses . . . Bientôt le 17 Nov. nous réunira tous. Toutes les jeunes têtes pensent à [leurs] [toilette] et [se] [promettent] un grand [plaisir] de [fuire] [xxtige] à [leur] [amie], [ta] [soeurs] sera superbe! . . . . . .

You're lucky, my dear little one, [beside your] good cousin, [who/which] [not] [follow] [which/who] [to flee/make/do] for the [interests] you see in pleasant countries, [in] enchanting [sites], profit well by the good moment – [which] will count I'm [sure] of it a number of your [best] memories, and when you [would return] near to us, you [xxx] to tell us a thousand thousand things . . . Soon Nov. 17 will reunite everyone. All the young heads think about [their] [outfits] and [promise themselves] a great [pleasure] of [fleeing] [xxxxx] to [their] [girlfriend], [your] [sisters] will be superb! . . . . . .

~~~written  perpendicularly in card's margin~~~

j'[entènds] dire que ma petite Marguerite sera [aussi] [xxxx] [xixx] . . . .
[j]'[envoie] à Mr Mme [Xenaudin] [toutes] mes [xxxxxxx]
et de [Xxxxxxxx] [de] tout coeur.   M.

I [hear] say that my little Marguerite will [also] be [xxxx] [xxxx] . . . .
I send to Mr Mme [Xenaudin] [all] my [xxxxxxx]
and [Xxxxxxxx] [of] all heart.   M.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Great new addition: 1830 Anti-Romanticist satire, "The Conversion of a Romanticist"

Antoine Jay, La Conversion d'un romantique, manuscrit de Jacques Delorme [The Conversion of a Romanticist, manuscript of Jacques Delorme]. 1830. First Edition. Moutardier, Librairie-Éditeur: Paris. Hardbound Octavo, 431 pp. Inscribed in Red Pen: [cf]. So. / Paris 8[?] 16  1848" & "A. [O?eg?es?]".

From the early 1820s until the "Battle of Hernani" in February of 1830, French Romanticist subculture became increasingly eccentric, militant, and visible to the public eye, at least in Paris. The resistance of the Classicist mainstream was ramped-up apace, and found its most forceful expression in this harsh anti-Romanticist satire by Antoine Jay, which rallied and catalyzed the Classicist opposition. 
Like many on the left in the 1820s and early '30s, Jay was progressive in political matters but deeply reactionary in linguistic and cultural matters. This book made him one of the most prominent critics of "The New Literature" as Romanticism was often called. Two years after its publication, Jay was elected to the Académie Française, where he militated against the admission of Victor Hugo in 1841; though Hugo was admitted, Jay saw his revenge the following year when Classicist audiences organised riots at the first performances of Hugo's play The Burgaves, spelling the end of the Romanticists' dominance of the popular stage since Hernani premiered within months of this novel.

The satire claims to have been written by Jacques Delorme, parodic brother of Saint-Beuve's arch-romanticist nom-de-plume Joseph Delorme. Jay parodies the "excesses" of the emerging avant-garde's lifestyle (attacking the Jeunes-France group by name), skewers Romanticist poetics, insults the movement's leaders and canon, and argues its literary principles. He spreads rumours about the subculture, exaggerates them, and invents others. He criticizes their experimental language, the distortion of grammar in their work, their use of neologisms, their employment of bizarre and inscrutable figurative language, even reprinting large passages of Romanticist verse and drama in order to ridicule it.

The book thus swiftly entered the Romanticist canon as a favoured target of invective and ridicule, and probably exercised some reciprocal influence on the radicalization of the movement's extreme fringes into the avant-garde, which was accelerating just as the book was published. It certainly affected the movement's representation of itself to the public, for the avant-garde Romanticists typically portrayed themselves in satirical form, as a function of their generally destabalising project. Gautier's roman-à-clef The Jeunes-France is, in one dimension, a parody of Jay's satire, as explicitly signaled in the tale, "Daniel Jovard; or, the Conversion of a Classicist".

This first-edition copy has been well-read but also well cared-for by at least one generation already, and probably at least two; the binding is tight and the pages clean, but the spine and edges are worn from use. The book's first owner has left no discernible trace, but an inscription in red ink, which I can only read in part, records its purchase in Paris during the 1848 revolution. A descriptive note in pencil, written on the back of a scrap of paper torn from an advert for fountain pens, has been tipped in as a bookmark by a subsequent owner, probably in the 1920s.

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