Personal Artifacts

Documents, ephemera, and relics of the daily lives of avant-gardists, especially those involved in archiving, publishing and organising. (This heading of the archive does not include books owned or inscribed by avant-gardists, which appear under the appropriate heading of the book, with an underlined note regarding the book's previous owner/s.)


Charles Asselineau, Avant-garde archivist & micro-historian. Unused Bookplate. Date Unknown, c. 1845-1874.

Jules Claretie, Avant-garde historian, writer, theatre director. Handwritten order to a bookseller for books on Romanticism and Left Politics (1827-28 Annales Romantiques, Maxime du Camp's Salon de 1857, Undeciphered title by Jules Favre, & one other undeciphered book). Date unknown, c.1860-1913.


Jules Claretie, Avant-garde historian, writer, theatre director. Calling Card w/ handwritten note to a yet-unidentified unidentified writer or critic. Date unknown, between 1885-1913.


Casimir Cordellier-Delanoue, Letter to unidentified theatre director. Undated, c. 1840s.

Cordellier-Delanoue played a central role in the self-conscious radicalization of Romanticist youth subculture into the foundation of the avant-garde. Heavily involved in the campaign of community organising and propaganda that led up to the 'Battle of Hernani,' he recognised the necessity of continuing the communal velocity created by that event, using it as a catalyst to press the Romanticist revolution to new extremes and continued cultural struggle.
To do so, he scraped together contributions from among the "Romanticist Army" attending every performance and launched a little magazine called Le Tribune romantique, or Romanticist Platform. In it, he and his collaborators, including Gérard de Nerval, Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Fuinet, Victor Pavie, Paul Foucher, and Félix Roselly articulated and promoted an aggressively militant Romanticism, linked to progressive politics, in the form of manifestos, critical articles on Romanticist writers and actors, Romanticist theory and historiography, literary, theatrical and musical reviews (including one of Nodier's wildly experimental novel Histoire du Roi de Bohème, held by this archive), translations of German and English Romanticism, and announcements of forthcoming publications. Although the journal was short-lived and circulated among a small, intimate readership (no full set survives, and it is not even certain how many issues were published), it catalyzed and focused the communal energy unleashed by the ongoing Battle of Hernani, and thus played a foundational role in the development of the avant-garde. It helped to establish a rich tradition of avant-garde journals and zines with tiny runs but decisive long-term effects, including Les Guêpes, Pêre Ubu's Almanac, Le Revue Blanc, Maintenant, Cabaret Voltaire, Potlatch, Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, Semina, SMILE, and The Lost and Found Times. He was involved in several other journals before and after, in addition to maintaining an output of plays, historical novels, literary and music criticism.

In this curt, undated note, the clearly agitated Cordellier Delanoue complains to a theatre director about the delay in staging a reading of one of his plays, the final step in the process of deciding whether to mount a production. The cavalier treatment of writers by the management of the theatre industry (in many ways parallel to today's Hollywood studios) is attested to in many 19th Century memoirs, including those of Arsène Houssaye, Théophile Gautier, and Alexandre Dumas.
His insistence paid off; at the bottom, in another hand (presumably that of the recipient) the incomplete date is scrawled: "reading monday 11 8". Neither the play in question nor the date has been determined. Cordellier-Delanoue had nine plays produced at various Parisian theatres between 1831 and 1855; he is known to have lived at this address at least between 1841 and 1847, but it is unknown how long before and after.

The following transcription & translation are tentative; I am attempting to decipher nearly 200-year old cursive in a language I am still learning, so I appreciate all corrections and better transcriptions!

Je n’ai pas [rXXXXXX[1]] à la Lecture pour laquelle je suis inscrit depuis si longtemps, et que plusieurs fois, sur mon sollicitations, vous avez bien voulu me promettre comme très prochaine. Soyez, je vous prie, assez bon, Monsieur, pour designer enfin le jour de cette Lecture, dont le [tour], (déja fixé [s???] M. [Vé??l?],) tarde bien à venir; - et veuillez [??r??er] l’assurance de ma [considération][2] ta [plus] [distinguée].
                Cordellier Delanoue
    [N’s’agis j’me p??n?]
        en 3 actes.
                    31 rue de chabral.
            Un Septembre

lecture lundi 11 8[he] {in another hand}

[1] I am tempted to read this contextually as a conjugation of “reçevoir,” but no such conjugation would explain the diacritical mark.
[2] This fits contextually; however, the word seems to me to terminate in a z, not an n; I have not a found a word that matches…


I did not renew? the Reading for which I signed up so long ago, and which several times, upon my request, you were willing to promise me very soon. Be, I beg you, good enough, Sir, to designate at long last the date of this Reading, of which the [tower/journey?], (already fixed XXXX? Mr. [Vé????],) cannot very well be slow to come;- and expect to [????] the assurance of my most distinguished [esteem] for you.
                    Cordellier Delanoue
    [Mustn’t I ????? myself?]
        in 3 acts.
                    31 rue de chabral.
            One September

reading monday 11 [8th?] {in another hand}

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.


Request to English Surrealist David Gascoyne to review Menard Press' 1999 bilingual edition of Nerval's Chimères. Typed with handwritten annotation. Enclosed in Gascoyne's personal review copy (see "Nervaliens Collection" tab).


Léon Halévy, Saint-Simonist Activist, Publisher & Playwright. Letter to Désirée Eymery. May 23, 1838. Handwritten on folded blue octavo stationary w/ Letterhead of Le Figaro.

This addition to the archive ties together, in the person of Léon Halévy, several important threads in the historical fabric of the early avant-garde. Halévy was the personal secretary of the proto-socialist Claude-Henry Saint-Simon, and was with him on his deathbed; afterward, he became involved with Romanticist subculture, writing many plays including adaptations of novels by Georges Sand, Jules Janin, and others. As such, he provided a social link between his close collaborator and fellow Saint-Simonist Olinde Rodrigues, who coined the term "avant-garde" in 1826 (see his anthology of self-taught proletarian poets in the "Anthologies" tab), and his good friend Petrus Borel, co-founder of the avant-garde Bouzingo group.

These two threads are neatly tied up with a third in this note, for it was written very shortly after the start of Halévy's short-lived tenure as editor of Figaro, the satirical journal that had generated both the name "Jeune-France" and "Bousingot" (détourned by the group to become "Jeunes-France" and "Bouzingo"). The journal had been as an opposition newspaper until 1832, when they were taken over as a government mouthpiece, then sold to a series of editors both Left and Right, until finally re-established as a conservative newspaper later in the century, which still exists. (See the Revenant Archive's collection of Bouzingo-related issues of Figaro).

In this note, Halévy suggests changing the title of a survey of literary history he has written for the Bibliothèque d'Education series issued by the female publisher Désirée Eymery, and offers her the use of the Figaro's pages to promote her books. Little is known of this intriguing woman, though she inherited the press from her father (still alive but retired when the note was written), who had published several of Nodier's books decades earlier. Halévy's mode of address shows that she was apparently still single at this time, suggesting either that either she was remarkably young to be running her own bookshop and press, or that she was purposely remaining single in order to maintain her economic autonomy. It is not surprising, given the central role of Feminism in Saint-Simon's thought, that Halévy would be in collaboration with a strong, enterprising single woman working in a traditionally gender-determined public role. This, plus her educational activism (as seen in the titles in her bibliography) goad the question of whether she had roots or connections with the Saint-Simonist community, in which the ultra-Feminist wing had played a leading role in the establishment of a number of Free Schools set up in working-class areas in Paris. She might also possibly be the future mother of the gender-bending Decadent author Rachilde, born Marguerite Eymery, whose mother was, it seems, heavily involved with Spiritualism.

Georges d'Heylli, Literary Historian, Archivist & Publisher. Letter to unidentified correspondent. July 3, 1874.

Georges d'Heylli was an important bibliophile, publisher and historian of the avant-garde, notably as editor of the small press Librairie des Bibliophiles and his historiographic journal Gazette Anecdotique, littéraire, artistique et bibliographique, of which the Revenant Archive holds a substantial collection (see the tab in the menu bar). In this note, Heylli seems to be requesting to an unidentified fellow publisher or critic that a notice of one of his forthcoming publications be placed in a publication with which they are involved.

A conjectural transcription:
"Mon Cher Confrère
Voulez vous–si vous le pouvez–être assez aimable pour [insérer] le petit extrait [ci-joint] dans un de [vos] [courrier] de [théatre?].–Je vous [enverrai?] le Volume dès qu'il aura paru, [+] je [vous] prie de recevoir, mon Cher Confrère, l'[Assurance?] de mes Sentiments bien devoué au même temps que tous mes remerciements
Georges d'Heylli
3 Juillet–74"
Or in rough, conjectural English:

"My Dear Colleague
Would you like--if you can--to be so kind as to [insert] the attached little extract in one of your [mailings] to [the theatre?].–I [shall send?] you the Volume as soon as it shall have appeared, [+] I beg you to accept, my Dear Colleague, the [assurance?] of my very devoted Sentiments at the same time as all my many thanks.
Georges d'Heylli
July 3, [18]74"
July 3, [18]74"

Gustave Karr, Hand-written letter to unknown correspondent regarding conditions & troop movements in the Franco-Prussian War. Undated, c. Spring, 1871. Two pages of single folded folio sheet. Found enclosed in archive copy of Karr's 1853 Nouvelles Guêpes boxed set (see "Les Guêpes Collection" tab). 


 Bibliophile Jacob (Paul Lacroix), Avant-garde archivist, historian & writer. Unused Bookplate. Date Unknown, between c. 1830-1884.


Charles Malo, Romanticist publisher, writer & theorist. Letter to Mme. Gimes [?] & Jean-Pierre Lesguillon w/ envelope. 16 March, 1841.


Paul & Victor Margueritte, Célibitaires (Bachelors). Undated, c.1895–1918. Corrected handwritten Manuscript, processed and marked by publisher and printer.

The history of the avant-garde is rife with pairs and sets of siblings: the Jancos, the Duchamps, the Hendricks, the Hugos, the Goncourts, the Mussets, the Argüelles, the Devérias, the Borels, the Deschamps, and many more. While in many cases siblings collaborated in collective movements, they tended to do so mainly through distinct bodies of work. In the avant-garde community of the late 19th Century however, some siblings began to develop intensely collaborative writing process that explored and built upon the filial bond and their instinctive shared understandings, operating as a single intellectual unit and crafting corpi in which their individual influences were indistinguishable; these processes were later taken up by practitioners within and without the avant-garde such as the Brothers Quay, the Cohen Brothers, and Gilbert & George. The most influential of these literary brothers were the Goncourts and the Marguerittes.
The Marguerite brothers were born in Algeria in 1860 (Paul) and 1866 (Victor), the sons of a French military colonial official; each started publishing at the age of 23. Initially joining the Naturalist movement, Paul broke with Zola in 1887. The brothers began collaborating regularly around 1895, making their name with a series of Naturalist military novels about the Franco-Prussian war (in which their father, who served with distinction and died in combat, appears as a main character) and going on to produce plays and childrens' books in collaboration. They were involved with less mainstream political ideas including Feminism and moderate Socialism. Both wrote prose poetry and drama in the Parnassian and Symbolist traditions, focusing on experimental engagement with the Pierrot cycle, pantomime, and charades (one prose-poem by Paul Margueritte is translated in Merrill's Pastels in Prose anthology in this archive).

As of this cataloguing, I have only begun the process of transcribing and translating the story; this description will be updated when it is complete. The story seems to deal with the laws and culture surrounding marriage, divorce, and the "New Woman," a topic on which the brothers (especially Victor) often wrote both fiction and polemic essays. It is dedicated to Edme Piot, a leftist legislator involved with these issues, though detailed information on him is sketchy. (Page LIII of the introduction to THIS 1921 book attacking the 'Police des moers" (loosely translated "the Morality Police") mentions both Piot and Margueritte in this connection–Piot quoted near the top on the law of patrimonial succession, Margueritte cited at the bottom for his work as an 'historian of manners' dealing with the institution of divorce.
Transcribing and translating the story will be a gradual process and awaits several current translation projects' completion; but here are tentative transcriptions and translations of the first page and final paragraph of the story, to be expanded as the opportunity arises:
            À M. le sénateur [Piol].

    Eugénie [Pérusse], dans un flot d’employées, descendait un des étroits escaliers qui chaque soir, cinq heures sonnant à la grande horlage des [Ch???n] [d???r] [Réunis], degorgeaient une [c?ut????] de femmes, [empressais] de fuir leurs bureaux, de gagner la Rue. A mesure qu’elles descendaient, les mornes visages s’éclairaient, semblaient secouer le poids des habitudes, la fatigue de la journée. quelques unes [gardaient] à leurs traits tirés une pâleur jaune, un indélébite ennui.
    – Allons bon! il pleut! s’exclama une jolie [voix] grave, et pourtant gaie, où de la jeunesse résonnait encore.
    Eugénie [Pérusse] regarde son amie germaine; et sur ses joues [mates] où depuis longtemps la fleur du [sang] s’était fanée, [un] doux sourire admiratif [paria]:
    – on dirait que ça te fait plaisir! Rien ne t’en [nuie], toi!

[ . . . ]
    Alors, tout le poids de sa détresse lui retomba sur le coeur, et tandis que le wagon roulait dans les ténébres, au cinglement dela pluie qui s’écrasait aux vitres, elle se renfonça dans son coin, pleurant à chaudes larmes, éperdàment.
in English:
               To Monseur the Senator Piol

    Eugénie [Pérusse], among a flood of employees, descended one of the narrow stairways which each day, five hours on the dot to the huge timekeeper of [Ch???n] [?????] [Gathered], disgorged a ??????? of women, [was rushing] to flee their offices, to make it to the street. As they descended, the dismal faces lit up, seemed to shake off the burden of habit, the exhaustion of the journey. A few kept in their drawn features a yellow pallor, an indelible ennui.
    – Oh great! it’s raining! cried out a pretty voice, serious yet gleeful, in which youth still resounded.
    Eugénie [Pérusse] watched her best friend; and on her cheek [?????] where for a long time the bloom of [blood] had wilted, a soft admiring smile [spoke]:
    – you’d think this made you happy! Nothing [????] there, you!
[ . . . ]

    Then, the entire burden of her distress descended over her heart, and as the carriage tolled into the gloom, the rain’s whipping which crashed  at the windowpanes, she shoved herself into her corner, weeping her eyes out, in desperation.
Though no bibliographic record of it has been located, this document itself provides proof that the story was published. The manuscript offers detailed insight into the entire process of literary production: from composition, through collaborative revision, to the publisher, to the printer, to the typesetters.
We have here a first or interim draft, over-written in the revising process and then sent to the publisher as the official fair-copy. The revisions seem to be in the same hand as the draft, suggesting that the brothers composed together in the same room, as one of them transcribed, and that the revision process took place likewise. Instructions to the typesetters, such as the squiggled underscore to signify italics, were added. The fact that this corrected copy was sent to the publisher, rather than a fair-copy, might indicate that it was written for the periodical press, where deadlines were much shorter and less flexible, a hypothesis supported by the absence of the story from any known bibliography of the brothers' work.

The manuscript was then sent to the publisher, where (among other things) it was processed to determine how much type & page space would be required; this affected editing decisions, graphic design, typesetting instructions, budget, and payment of the authors. This story was to be printed in sextodecimo (each large sheet of paper folded and cut to produce sixteen finished pages). Blue pencil was used to designate approximately where each block of text would fall in order to produce sixteen pages, using the bibliographic shorthand for "sextodecimo", "16 mo." (Also used in the bibliographic entries for this archive) and each # "mo" building up to it. This was presumably used to determine page counts for editing, page design, and payment to the authors (usually determined in contract for books but often by the column or the word in periodicals).
Next, the marked-up manuscript was sent to the printing house, who trimmed off all of the margins, cut it apart, and carefully re-pasted it together, presumably to fit the stand at typesetting station. (see rear view below.) The newly-assembled pages were then re-numbered and transported to the work-floor, where the typesetter (likely a child, who often served as typesetters due to their smaller fingers) used it to manually lay out the type, probably in conjunction with a separate document specifying the layout and design of the printed page (typeface, point-size, margins, leading, etc.). After printing, the manuscript was returned to the publisher, after which it was archived–whether in the publisher's files, the editor's personal archive, or perhaps by the Marguerittes themselves; we lose the path of the manuscript between that time and its appearance on the market.
This manuscript thus bears the marks of the entire process of literary production–beginning with the personalised, imaginative act of literary composition aiming to critique and oppose mechanistic industrialized culture, and ending with the document's integration into that self-same industrialized system in order to be distributed. In this light, it is ironic to note the personalised flourish of the signature at the foot of the last page–representative of the individuality and subjectivity of the authors–jutted up against the scrawled mark of the printer, destined for mechanical reproduction, oblivious to the text's content, context, or intentions.

Transcribing and translating will be a gradual process due to my limited time, plethora of simultaneous projects, and slowness with French. I welcome help, and would publish a translation as a chapbook; if you would like higher-resolution scans, contact me at

Francis Vielé-Griffin, Franco-American Symbolist writer & publisher. Letter / Micro-Essay, probably to collaborator Paul Adam. Handwritten on folded quarto paper, headed with "16, Quai de Passy," Vielé-Griffin's address as of 1904.

Francis Vielé-Griffin was born in Virginia, the son of a politician who had served as a Federal general in the American Civil War, and though he spent his early childhood in the U.S., he lived for most of his life in France and never wrote in English. One of the most formally experimental poets of his generation, he was a leading member of the Symbolist community in Paris, one of Mallarmé's closest disciples and a close friend of Alfred Jarry. Intensely interested in the relationships between consciousness, rhythm, phonetics and radical politics, he experimented with synthetic languages in the 1880s and '90s, laying the groundwork for the transrational experiments of Zoum, and wrote in the 1890s of the potential of recording technology–then in its infancy–to revolutionize voiced poetry. With Paul Adam, he co-edited the influential Symbolist-Socialist journal Entretiens, which gave equal space to avant-garde culture (including Vièle-Griffin's own Volapük poems mentioned above, and a great many of his theoretical essays) and to Socialist news articles, essays and polemics, with heavy anarchist leanings.
The precise date and context for his intriguing handwritten note (essentially a micro-essay of a few sentences) to his collaborator Adam are not known. It seems to be part of an ongoing discourse about mass psychological manipulation by the ruling class. If the tenuous reading of the first word as "parce que" ("because") is correct, the implication may be that it was an answer to a note from Adam, part of an ongoing discussion carried on intermittently throughout the day, in a kind of precursor to 21st century facebook discussion threads. Parisian intellectual life for most of the 19th Century was supported by a vast network of postal couriers continually criss-crossing the city bearing letters, most of them only a few sentences, and it was not uncommon for writers, editors, politicians, scholars, and others to write and send off and receive more than a hundred such notes a day, providing a real-time, simultaneous web of communication not entirely dissimilar to that facilitated today by email and social media. This may have been part of their planning process for an article dealing with current events referred to (cryptically) in it, or may simply have been a side conversation carried out between them in the midst of their other work. Depending on the date, Vielé-Griffin may or may not still have been editing the journal, which he stepped away from after several years to free up more time to write.

 The note is not yet entirely deciphered; a tenuous reconstruction follows (I welcome advice):
Mon [lure] preferé
Le Trust
[parceque] [si] je ne m abuse,  
c est ce premier [line/lure] d'inter-
psychologie [où] on [puisse]
[voir] quatre populations yankée
Cubaine, egyptienne et française
travserées [par] une [mei??] idee,
modifiée par elle, et la
modifiant- a leur [tou??], selon
les [caractères] de leur elites et de
leurs foules [en] pleine [ire].

Lequel a eu le plus de succès
Le Trust
or, in English:
My favourite [lure]
[Because]  [if] I do not deceive myself,
it is this first [line/lure] of inter-
psychology [in which] one [could]
[see] four populations yankee
Cuban, egyptian and french
spanned by one [????] idea,
altered by it, and
altering it- [???ed] them, depending
the [integrity] of their elites and of
their masses  [in] full [anger].
The one  who has most success


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