Paris: Hachette, 1881. First Edition. Large 4to. (325 x 250 mm). 648 pp., profusely illustrated with 155 reproductions of paintings or drawings and 41 full-page plates. Contemporary brown crushed niger morocco over beveled boards, richly tooled in blind and black to a retrospective design, rounded spine, four double bands, compartments similarly decorated, red, yellow and green endbands, turn-ins with four gilt frames, parchment pastedowns, parchment endleaves and three binder's blanks at the front and back (the first two inexplicably soiled and slightly creased), original endleaves on Chine at the front and back, all edges gilt. Some scuffing to binding extremities, not detracting from the beauty and interest of this beautiful binding, and thus priced accordingly. Hors commerce copy, PRINTED ON CHINE for Rene Fouret, an associate of the Librairie Hachette et Cie. Item #2976
An IMPOSING retrospective binding by Jean Marius-Michel (1821-1890), "the Elder," who is justly celebrated as "le Grand Doreur du XIXe siecle" on account of his marvellously exact forwarding and finishing, for which he had few rivals in the 1880s. Previously he had trained at the bench of such French luminaries as Paul Gruel, Trautz, Duru, and Cape. Flety, at the end of a long biographical note on Marius-Michel, remarks that our binder was a lifelong, "fervent" admirer of 16th century bindings. With respect to the present binding, it is clear that his enthusiasm was unbridled. The design itself harkens to the 1540s, the large central lozenge entwined within a frame surely inspired by Jean Picard's bindings for Jean Grolier. The construction of the binding, and the execution of the finishing, is pure 19th century French bibliophily at its apogee. That the present binding is signed on the turn-in "Marius-Michel" does not automatically imply that it did not receive the attention of Marius-Michel le Jeune (1846-1925), who is known to have created fine bindings with his father as early as 1866.
The present binding features a sunken medaillon portrait of Raphael signed by Augustin-Desire (dit "Auguste") Souze (1829-1900) who specialized in designing and engraving plaques and plates specifically for bookbinders. Souze is particularly well known for his panel stamps that were employed polychrome publisher's bindings. He invented a process for engraving on percaline, using overlapping plates and inks of various shades.
We have seen a different Marius-Michel binding on a copy of the same book at Librairie du Bacchanal, likewise printed on Chine for an associate of Hachette, the retrospective design similarly Grolieresque. Incidently, none of the copies printed on Chine were ever offered for sale.
The text is Eugene Muntz's lavishly illustrated, critical analysis of the life and work of Renaissance master-painter Raphael (1483-1520). Muntz here offers real contextualization by providing a detailed history of the time and place.
¶ Literature: On Marius-Michel, see, i.a., Maurice Flety, Dictionnaire des reliures francais pp. 120-121. On Souze, see Jean-Paul Fontaine's excellent blog entitled "Auguste et Paul Souze, graveurs sur metaux," with numerous reproductions of Souze's spectacular publisher's bindings.