Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gavarni's Paris Mornings and Mailbox (1839)

by Stephen J. Gertz

Two incredibly scarce  albums from 1839 by Paul Gavarni, bound together, and with a total of forty-three marvelous hand-colored lithographs, recently came to market. This two-albums-in-one set sold immediately for $7,500.

The albums, Paris le Matin (Paris Morning) and La Boite aux Lettres (Mailbox), are typical - if exceedingly scarce - examples of Gavarni turning his satiric eye on the customs and manners of the French petit bourgeoisie.

Paris le Matin limns the morning activities of  Parisians; La Boite aux Lettres is a charmingly amusing survey of writing, sending, and receiving letters in Paris of the era.

The American Book Prices Current (ABPC) Index, 1923-present, records no copies of Paris le Matin at auction within the last eighty-eight years. Only one copy of La Boite ux Lettres has come to auction within the last thirty-six years but it contained only fourteen thirty-four called-for plates.

Only one copy of Paris le Matin is found in institutional collections worldwide, at the Getty Research Library, but it contains only five of the twelve plates in the series. OCLC records only five copies of La Boite aux Lettres in libraries throughout the world.

This copy of La Boite aux Lettres lacks the last three plates,  XXXI, XXXIII, and XXXIV. 

The institutional copies, however, appear to be incomplete, as well, and it seems that the copy under notice is as complete as has ever been seen within our lifetime and is likely remain so for many years to come.

GAVARNI, Paul [pseudonym of Guillaume Sulpice Chevallier]. Paris le Matin. Paris: Chez Aubert, 1838-1839.  [bound with] La Boite aux Lettres. Paris: Caboche Gregoire / Chez Aubert, 1839.

First editions. Folio (13 1/8 x 9 5/8 in; 334 x 245 mm). Paris le Matin with twelve, and La Boite aux Lettres with thirty-one (of thirty-four) hand-colored lithographed plates; a total of forty-three plates, most heightened with gum arabic.

Armelhault & Bocher 902-913 (Paris le Matin). Armelhault & Bocher, p. 88 (La Boite aux Lettres, one unnumbered + 348-397).

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