“A COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF FRENCH SOCIETY… WRITTEN BY LEADING JOURNALISTS AND ADORNED BY LEADING ILLUSTRATORS”
(FRANCE) GAVARNI (CHEVALLIER, Sulpice-Guillaume, psuedonym), et al. Les Français peints par eux-mêmes. Paris: L. Curmer, 1840-42. Nine volumes. Royal octavo, bound from original parts in contemporary half olive calf gilt, marbled boards and endpapers. $1600.
First edition of this richly illustrated 19th-century compendium of French citizens from all walks of life—including the provinces and France’s overseas possessions—with more than 400 full-page and 1500 in-text wood engravings. This set complete with the scarce ninth volume, published as a gift to subscribers and “often missing.” A very handsome and desirable nine-volume set in fine contemporary French calf-gilt.
"Les Français peints par eux-mêmes was Curmer's most ambitious undertaking… When its 422 part-issues, which appeared several times a week, reached completion in eight volumes, they included over 400 plates and about 1500 smaller wood engravings… Thus the work constitutes a comprehensive survey of French society, the first five volumes dealing with Paris and the last three with the provinces, including France's overseas possessions, written by leading journalists and adorned by leading illustrators of the time… Gavarni was beyond comparison the leading artist. His designs for the first three volumes established both the form and the style of the illustrations. Realism is the dominant mode though a tendency to exaggeration in certain writers is paralleled by a tendency to caricature in certain artists" (Ray). After Gavarni, Pauquet, Monnier, Gagniet, Lami and Penguilly were the most frequent collaborators, and Charlet, Daubigny, Daumier, Dauzats, Grandville, Meissonier and Trimolet also contributed. "Indeed, there was hardly a significant illustrator of the time who didn't participate in the enterprise" (Ray). The text is by various authors including Balzac, Gautier, Nerval, Borel, Janin, Monnier, Nodier, Sand and others. The scarce ninth volume of Les Français is titled Le prisme. "Though it is an integral part of the set, it was published as a gift to subscribers, and is often missing. The illustrations consist entirely of vignettes in the text, but they are abundant" (Ray). Bound with all half titles, wood-engraved extra title pages, and indices. Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book 227.
Infrequent faint foxing; a few leaves of text embrowned. Contemporary French calf-gilt bindings fine and handsome. An excellent set, most desirable in such nice condition and complete with the scarce ninth volume.