1929 Lettres Persanes (Persian Letters) de Charles de Secondat. Signed binding. Limited Edition. Hand-colored pochoir illustrations


A very handsome binding houses this classic 18th century French work (this edition, 1926), recounting a royal Persian journey to France. Paired with pochoir illustrations (each illustration hand-colored, by watercolors applied to stencils), this limited edition printing (265 examples, this numbered 154) on Rives paper is impressive. The illustrations are included in two states, one black-and-white, the other pochoir.

The binding is notable, signed by Flammarion, with geometric and floral overlays at the corners of the front boards border and, both, a silk moire doublure and decorative paper endpapers (following the flyleaf). It's as though the binder wasn't sure which to use, so they decided to do doublures and endpapers!

Normally this work, with this binding, would be costly, but there is a catch to this copy; a previous owner has added his skills to many, but not all of the pochoir examples. The third-hand story I was told is that the colorist was an art teacher that loved pochoir so much that, when aged, he decided to add to the decorations in a similar manner. Without a second copy in-hand it's impossible for me to tell which illustrations have been added to and which are entirely original.

About the Literature -

Persian Letters is a literary work, written in 1721, recounting the experiences of two Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, who are traveling through France. In 1711 Usbek leaves his seraglio in Isfahan to take the long journey to France, accompanied by his young friend Rica. He leaves behind five wives in the care of a number of eunuchs, one of whom is the head or first eunuch. During the trip and their long stay in Paris (1712–1720), they comment, in letters exchanged with friends and mullahs, on numerous aspects of Western, Christian society, particularly French politics and Moors, ending with a biting satire of the System of John Law. Over time, various disorders surface back in the seraglio, and, beginning in 1717, the situation there rapidly unravels.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 25 x 20 x 4.5 cm. Morrocan leather binding, with four raised cords to the spine; author and title in gilt in one compartment, year at base of spine. Front board has gilt triple ruled border with corner flowers and a geometric design with some application of overlays. The edges of the boards are ruled in gilt. The silk-moire doublure's are ruled in gilt, with decorative corners. Leather hinges. Decorative paper endpapers. Top-edge gilt, other edges rough cut. There are 20 illustrations in black-and-white, 20 in color (pochoir). The original paper wrappers, including the spine, are bound-in. 293 numbered pages. Rives paper, with "BFK RIVES" and "LETTRES PERSANES" as watermarks.

Condition -

See pictures. A handsome and heavy book, that shows well. Spine slightly sunned (browner color) with just a little loss at the joints. Board corners lightly bumped, 1 cm darkish spot on front board. Where the leather hinge meets the endpaper there are 2 cm cracks in the paper at the top and bottom edge. Blank endpapers foxed with some pencil bookseller notes on them. An exlibris, with a coat-of-arms was removed from the original wrapper (bound in), leaving a mark, and has ghosted onto the facing endpaper. Occasional blooms of foxing in the paper throughout. Extra coloring to the plates, but not all of them. Some initial letters also colored. Occasionally the colorist strayed and left an errant mark. Silk moire on rear flyleaf is fraying and will lift off the paper it's mounted on (still connected at the gutter). Still an attractive book, despite condition notes.

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