Monday, 29 May 2017

New Addition: Early Keepsake Book w/Hand-coloured illustrations

Le Petit Volage Fixé à Paris. Author and Artist uncredited. Undated, 1809. Janet & Madame de Musique: Paris. Bound with: Souvenir des Dames. Undated, c. 1809. Janet: Paris. 1813 Printing. Hardcover 64mo. with hand-painted etchings.

This is a forerunner of the Keepsake book, a mainstream format that later ended up, in the hands of this very publisher, exercising an important influence on Romanticism. Originating in England late in the eighteenth century, the original keepsakes were lavishly produced volumes designed to show off every aspect of the bibliographic craft. They typically included elaborate typography, page design and ornamentation, with finely-printed engravings tipped-in throughout, printed on high-quality paper and often finely-tooled and gilt bindings, though the latter varied since most books were bound individually by their owners.

Although this book lacks the anthological character of the Keepsake, instead presenting a self-contained series of anonymous emblem poems, and its original owner evidently could not afford an ornate binding, it does exhibit many of the qualities that would later lead its publisher to the keepsake format: elegant typography and design, copious tipped-in illustrations (in this with the engravings hand-tinted in watercolour), and an evidently female intended audience.

In fact, the differences themselves make this book match the name "keepsake" better than the format to which it was applied: it is meant to be used, written in, personalized, and kept as a memento. Technically, the copy consists of two books bound together, but they were marketed and sold as a bound pair beginning in 1809.

The first half, Le Petit Volage Fixé à Paris (The Little Butterfly Stuck in Paris), consists of twelve iconographic emblems of Cupid (the titular "butterfly") engaged in various activities and scenarios, each accompanying a poem that explicates the image. The etchings are executed in neo-classical style and each is finely hand-tinted in watercolour, usually in four or five colours. Neither the artist nor the poet are identified.
The second-half, Souvenir des Dames (Ladies' Memory), is essentially a planner to keep track of recurring salons, meetings, etc. with a blank page for each day of the week, followed by a page for each month of the year (topped by a zodiacal emblem) in which to record important life events for future remembrance–thus, keepsake.

At the end are several blank pages, followed by a fold-out chart of the Saints Days for the year 1813, signalling that this copy is a re-issue for that year. It was not used, unfortunately, and these pages remain blank.

This copy is cheaply bound in simple green cardboard, implying that the 22-franc price stretched their budget; but the inside is beautiful. On every page, text and image are presented together through engraved borders either shaped and shaded or hand-enhanced in colour; the italic typeface is headed by titles in engraved cursive in elegant lines; verses are ornamented with patterns of abstract flowing swirls. Twenty years later, under Janet's son, the press would continue its concern with design to become the most extreme champion of Romanticist typography and design, including that in the annual Annales Romantiques anthologies, many of them collected in this archive. 

Throughout its existence, Janet seems to have devoted much attention to building and serving a female readership, and published a number of feminist texts (in this archive for instance, see both of the (different) books entitled Le Mérite des femmes, (the other is listed HERE) and the Le Livre de beauté in 'Anthologies, as well as the many female writers published in the Annales Romantiques anthologies.

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