J’appartiens a Marie-Elisabeth-Joseph
Weigel, rue de Baudimont;
Hotel de Carnin
De Plaire a ma chere Maitresse
Pour moi est un bien charmant;
Et plus fidele qu’un Amant,
J’ai plus de droit a sa tendresse.
Lu de ma Maitresse avec zele
J’aime mon Etre tel qu’il est;
Si jamais elle me perdoit,
Je perdrois encore plus qu’elle.
Perdu, si vous me retrouviez,
Manez-moi vers celle que j’aime ;
Si l’on m’avoit donne des pieds,
J’y retournerois de moi-meme.
Voudrois-je etre a d’autres? oh non!
De peur d’un nouvel esclavage,
Je veux que toujours son Nom
Brille sur ma premiere page.
THE collectors of ex libris in France include under this term not only the engraved labels which were pasted into the cover of the book, but as well the heraldic marks of ownership which are stamped upon the binding. To these the English-speaking collectors have usually given the term, super libros.
Richelieu and Mazarin had large collections of books upon the covers of which their arms were stamped, and Mazarin was very particular as to the binding of his volumes, and put them in the hands of only the most skilful, Le Gascon, Saulnier, and Petit among them. The binders were, in fact, constantly employed in his library under his personal supervision, and upon some of these he had the conceit to place the lines, Arma Julii ornant Franciam “The arms of Jules, the ornament of France.”
The books of Jean Grolier, the veritable prince of bibliophiles, were not marked with a book-plate, but by gold stamping upon the elegant binding with which his treasures were so richly furnished. His library numbered fully three thousand volumes, which was indeed a large one for the days of early printing, and all of them were bound sumptuously. At his death this collection passed into the hands of Emeric de Vic, who was Keeper of the Seals, and who left them to his son, upon whose death they finally dispersed, many of the books falling into the hands of appreciative collectors.
The earliest dated French book-plate has upon it the following legend : –
Ex Bibliotheca Caroli Albofij E. Eduenfis Ex labore quies 1574-
For some time this plate was thought to belong to some one of the name of Charles d’Alboise; but it is well established now that it was the plate of Charles d’Aileboust, Bishop of Autun, whose father had been the physician of Francis L, and who died at Fontainebleau in the year 1531. This Bishop of Autun is mentioned in history as a man of distinguished appearance, of great learning, of courtly manners, and of an amiable disposition. While connected with the Church he was also favored with Court appointments, and he died in the town of Autun at the very end of the year 1585, and was buried in the Church of St. Jean-de-la-Grotte.
Another early plate, and one which brings to mind a magnificent library and an owner of note in the history of his times, is that of Pierre Seguier, Comte de Gien, Chancelier de France. He was born in 1588 and he died in 1672, having spent a long life and an active in the service of his country and in the numerous studies and pursuits which appealed to him.
The law, science, and literature were favorite subjects, and the friendship of the most scholarly and polite circles of his times was his delight. With abundant wealth he was enabled to get together a most magnificent collection of printed books and choice manuscripts, and on account of his position of power and influence there were many who, to gain his good graces, made him presents of valuable literary treasures. Antiene Ruette was the binder of most of these precious volumes, and Seguier, who lived in the Rue de Bouloi, had his salons decorated by the celebrated artist Simon Vouet. Here his receptions were crowded by men of letters and by those holding high positions in State and Church, and it may be remembered that among his most distinguished visitors was Christina of Sweden. After his death his books were carefully cared for by his widow; but they were sold upon her death, although the manuscripts were preserved and are now to be seen in the Bibliotheque Nationale. The book-plate which adorned many of his books shows his arms within an architectural frame of good design, and over this is thrown the ermine-lined cloak his rank entitled him to wear.
Two very interesting plates, dating nearly at the end of the seventeenth century, were used by the College of Jesuits in Paris to record the gifts of two munificent benefactors who were as well book-collectors of the greatest renown. The first of these was to record the gift of some eight thousand volumes and many manuscripts from Pierre Daniel Huet, Eveque d’Avranches. The good Bishop presented these books during his lifetime, and the Jesuit fathers gave permanent expression to their gratitude in the book-plate which shows the arms of the Bishop, and which they made in four sizes. The other plate was for the legacy of some two thousand volumes from the library or Gilles Menage, Doyen de St. Pierre d’Angers.
The plate recording the gift of the Dean is not so elaborate as the other, but it carries with it the distinction of bearing a good date, 1692. Neither of these good churchmen seem to have used book-plates, for the bindings of their books were stamped with their arms. An account of these libraries may be found in L’ Armorial du Bibliophile. The three daughters of Louis XV. had books of their own which were bound by Vente, binder and librarian to the king. Probably the books of Madame Adelaide entitle her alone of the three to a place among book-lovers, though the others certainly owned some books. All their books had stamped upon the binding the same design, but each had her books bound in a different color,- those of Madame Adelaide being in red, those of Madame Victoire in green, and for those of the youngest, the Princess Sophie, citron was chosen. The Princess Adelaide was the most intellectual of them all, while to her next sister belonged the largest measure of personal beauty and charm of manner. Sophie was considered dull and silent, but in reality her manner was due more to reflection than to a natural lack of pleasing qualities. She used to read, before all other books, the lives of the Saints and such moral essays as came her way.
There is a very charming plate, once the property of M. de Joubert, about which little is known, but which belongs to the Louis XV. period, and which shows the interior of the library of the owner. The books are ranged in this case behind a rich curtain, and only the top rows are to be seen; these are in curved shelves fitting the dome which crowned the library. The arms of M. de Joubert are on the curtain, and the usual rich ornamentation of flowers and ribbons is displayed to good advantage. In a copy of L’Etat de la France published in 1749, M. de Joubert is called Chevalier, which explains the De on his book-plate, and shows him by its record to have been holding at that date the office of Tresorier des Etats de Languedoc.
There is a little group of three book-plates extant which, to the student of French history, should seem of special importance, inasmuch as they owe their existence to the career of that most remarkable woman Joan of Arc. It is true that she used no book-plate herself and that she can hold no place with the women bibliophiles of her country, but it is interesting to find her arms as designed by Charles VII. himself used upon these plates of her descendants. The hand holding the sword was the device borne by the Maid and hers was the motto, Consilio firmata Dei, ” Strengthened by consent of God.” Her third brother bore among other titles those of Chevalier du Luys and Seigneur de l’Ile-aux-Boeuf. The first of the three plates is anonymous, and consists of two shields accolle bearing the arms of Gauthier and Hordal du Luys with crest, helmet, and mantling above, as usual.
This is in the German style. The second is very rare, and dates from the time of Louis XVI., being that of Claud Francois Pagel de Vautoux, whose family was connected with the Maid’s by marriage. The arms of the two families are supported by no less a personage upon the dexter siuc uuiu himself, while Joan grants similar service upon the sinister side. There is also some ornamentation, and a landscape at the foot shows in its distance trees and a castle, perhaps in remembrance of the exploits of the Maid on the field of battle and before the walls of castles. The third of these plates is simpler than the others, and shows the arms of Du Luys with the coronet above. This belonged to Nicolas Francois Alexandre de Haldat du Luys. Surely, all will admit the deep interest which attaches to these plates, with their plain indebtedness to the famous deeds of one of the most remarkable personages of history, for their very being.
A little plate dated 1772 bearing the legend, Livres de Mr. Terray Maitre des Requetes, brings to mind the scandalous corruption of morals and politics of the times of Louis XV. Terray was one of the boldest and most dissolute of those men who by their conduct of public affairs, and the profligacy of their private life, were in no small measure responsible for the sad condition of France, and for the Revolution which succeeded her wrecked credit and general distress. Surely he did collect a fine library of books, and employed not a few good bookbinders ; but as these are the only good traits one finds recorded of him, it cannot be thought that the books were properly his, or the bindings paid for with money rightfully his to be used on private matters.
In Querard’s La France Litter air e there are a few biographical details of Thomas Simon Gueulette, a dramatist of some renown towards the close of the eighteenth century. This distinguished author used a striking book-plate engraved by H. Becat, and by the legend upon it we judge the learned writer to have been a generous lender of books. It reads as do so many of that and earlier periods, Ex Libris Thorns Gueulette et Amicorum. But the design itself is worth a moment’s notice as showing more invention and originality than was common among his contemporaries. The arms are shown of course, and about them for supporters are four figures which by their dress are seen at once to represent an Italian Arlequin, a Tartar, a Chinese Mandarin, and a Cyclops in whose arms reposes, or more properly struggles, an infant. A familiarity with the writings of this dramatic: master shows these figures to be representative of his works. Up in the sky above the figures there is a figure of Cupid bearing, as he flies, a streaming ribbon on which are these words, Duke est desipere in loco, and which have been translated in the following happy manner, by a lover of books and book-plates in London : ? u Duke, ? Delightful says the poet, Est ? is; it, and right well we know it, Desipere ? to play the fool, In loco ? when we’re out of school.”
The next plate of historic interest brings vividly to mind that day in November, 1793, when the tumbril, having made many trips to the guillotine, came at last for its final load of two condemned mortals, Lamarche, a trembling old man, and Madame Roland, still young and winsome.
Unnoticed alike by the crowd were her youth and beauty, and the tears of her weaker companion. They shouted, ” A la guillotine,” and to her gay rejoinder that she was going there, they retorted with language of the vilest and grossest sort. Arrived at last at the Place de la Concorde, they see the instrument of death set up under a huge clay figure of Liberty, noticing which the brave little woman stepped to her fate with the words ” Oh ! Liberty, Liberty ! how many crimes are committed in thy name”. Firmly she walked to the place of death, and in a few moments her head rolled into the waiting basket.
Thus at the age of thirty-nine died Marie-Jeanne Phlippon Roland, one of the most noble and highly gifted women her country ever saw, and whose husband, unwilling to live without her, was found dead the next week with his stiletto still sticking in his heart. The bookplate of Madame Roland was prettily designed and, in addition to the shields of arms, was embellished with cupids, with figures of Religion and Justice, and with the representation of two hearts and a celestial crown above the pyramid which formed the background of the whole design. It is of extreme interest, not only to the collector of bookplates, but to those who find something worthy of attention in the story of the persecuted Huguenot families.
Lavoisier, the chief founder of modern chemistry, and whose lamentable execution could not be delayed in the interests of science, used a handsomely engraved heraldic plate giving his name with the titles conferred upon him. The plate is signed De la Gordette fecit. It has no motto.
A little collection of books still preserved with loving care was once the property of Charlotte Corday. No engraved book-plate adorns their simple covers, it is true; but as they contain what may be called a manuscript plate, they are eligible to mention here, particularly as their owner’s life history makes them of rare interest and value to all with the least interest in history or biography. This is the inscription which one at least of these books contains, C. Corday d’Armont, Sainte Trinite de Caen 20 Decembre 1790. The name ” Charlotte ” in monogram also accompanies this. It is quite likely that the book came into her possession very soon after she had come to the Grand Manoir of old Madame de Bretteville to live, and from which place she set forth upon her errand of death. She was a granddaughter of Corneille, the great dramatic author, the founder indeed of the French drama, and as a child she was taught to read from an old copy of his works. It was for some three years that she stayed quietly in the convent at Caen, and she had many books then, although when she finally set out for Paris, she gave them to her friends, saving only a favorite copy of Plutarch’s Lives. Among her intimate friends she was always known as Marie, her full name being Marie Anne Charlotte, and in the very few letters now known in her handwriting she signs herself Marie de Corday.
There is some surprise that her name has come down to us as Charlotte only. The death of Marat, which she accomplished, doomed her to the scaffold, and some five months before the beheading of Madame Roland she ended her young life. In writing of her Lamartine says, ” There are deeds so mingled with pure intentions and culpable means that we know not whether to pronounce them criminal or virtuous.”
The Chevalier d’Eon, who performed so many services for France in the diplomatic service and whose latter years were so strangely occupied, used a book-plate of handsome appearance. The arms are on an oval shield, and the cross of his order depends therefrom, while skin-clad men carrying weapons support it. A helmet and the motto, Vincit amor patriae, are above the shield.
One occasionally comes across a small book-plate of oblong form which in itself is not especially attractive, but which printed from the genuine copper is of the greatest interest to the collector of books and book-plates. This plate shows for arms eight red balls upon a silver field and the shield is supported by griffons, while the crests and banners displayed above assist in the identification of the plate. The legend below runs as follows, Biblioteque de Coppet. This is the book-plate of Madame de Stael. This estimable lady, the most celebrated authoress of modern times, was born in Paris on the 22d of April, 1766, and the name given her was Anne Louise Germaine Necker, her father being the Switzer, Jacques Necker, the celebrated statesman and minister of finance who did so much for poor Louis XVI. Her home was the meeting-place of the literary celebrities of the day, and with the rarest opportunity for acquaintance and culture this lively girl grew up. Married to the Swedish minister at the Court of France, Eric Magnus Stael von Hoi-stein, in 1786, a man whom she did not love but who was preferred to all others by her parents because he was a Protestant, she received an immense dowry from her father, and within two years of her marriage her first literary production was given to the world. Banished from Paris in 1802, she spent some time in travelling and finally settled in her father’s castle, Coppet, on the banks of Lake Leman, the haunt of genius, where, by the words upon her book-plate, we conclude the greater part of her library was assembled. Here came those valiant supporters of her ideas to condole with her, here also the hordes of exiles, here later that gay assemblage of her best friends when the beautiful Recamier listened to the love-making of the dashing Prince August of Prussia. Not beautiful itself, with the chateau so situated as not to command a view of the lake, it was still a quiet place in which to work, although the gifted writer much preferred the excitement of the Rue de Bac.
Such magic names as Byron, Gibbon, Shelley, Rousseau, and Voltaire are associated with Lake Leman, and as one comes across the book-plate of Madame de Stael and ponders upon the eyes which have perchance glanced at it as the hands of famous men or women opened the book it ornamented, he can but feel a new thrill of emotion as it recalls to him the history of those times of terror and persecution to its owner.
Under the First Empire, when Napoleon by edict made sweeping changes in the heraldic customs of his people, the book-plates are not very interesting, but there are two which in themselves show some pleasing conceits. These are of Antoine Pierre Augustin de Piis, a dramatist, whose plate shows his monogram monogram placed on a which carries the name of a well-known singer, as Panard, Colle, Fevart, etc., and below appears a list of vaudevilles from his own pen, and that of M. Dubuisson, which is dated 1805, and represents a chubby cherub carving the name and date upon an overhanging rock.
The plate of Napoleon’s own brother, Lucien, is worthy of mention here, as it represents that gifted man at about the period of his greatest glory. The plate is quite small, and displays the arms in an oval shield with an ermine mantle surmounted with the crown, behind it. The inscription below reads, Ex Bibliotheca Principis Canini.
In his book on the French book-plates Mr.Walter Hamilton regards the interesting plate of Alphonse Karr, the author and editor, as marking the “division line between the old engraved copper-plates with their stiff and formal heraldry, and the modern etched plate with designs free and graceful, allegoric, pictorial, allusive, humorous ? anything, in fact, that is not heraldic or in which at least if there be anything of an armorial nature, it is made subservient to the general design and as little conspicuous as possible.” The plate of M. Karr represents a wasp busily writing on a large sheet of parchment. Very probably the design on the book-plate was to conform to the title of his satirical periodical monthly, entitled Les Guepes. This plate dates about 1837. Another plate by this same designer deserves mention if for no other reason than on account of its motto, Nun-quam amicorum, the spirit of which is decidedly opposite to that of his fellow-countryman, Jean Grolier, upon whose many beautiful bindings was stamped the words, Jo. Grolierii et amicorum. Thomas Maioli also used this formula upon his books, but he seems to have suffered from his book-loving friends; for upon some of his bindings the generous offer of his library is modified by the addition of the following, Ingratis servire nefas.
Upon a small plate showing the arms of Mexico enclosed within an oval frame and supported by griffons and showing the royal crown above, the monogram M.I.M. is seen. To this plate no little interest attaches, as it was used by the ill-fated but estimable Maximilian, Archduke of Austria and Emperor of Mexico. The sad story of the unhappy ending of the two lives which were begun together with such brilliant promise of happiness and prosperity is still fresh in the minds of many. Oh, that the temptations of Napoleon III. had not been listened to, and that Maximilian could have remained within reach of his beloved Miramar! He did not understand the conditions which faced him in the new country; he was possessed of personal bravery and integrity, but he lacked the insight of the general, the power of the conqueror. How can one read with anything but pity of the landing of this misguided man and his expectant wife upon the inhospitable shores where death awaited him? With what pleasure did they look forward to the landing, with what pomp and evidence of welcome and rejoicing did they expect to be received, and with what bare civility were they handed from the boat and escorted by a few officials to the palace ! Disappointment from the first, and
Still no comprehension of circumstances ! With what peculiar power of hope must he have been endowed to have been able during the long weeks of that disastrous experience to keep himself within doors and spend his time devising uniforms for the royal guard, charts of precedence, and orders of chivalry! Perhaps even this book-plate was designed during these momentous days. But at length, with the withdrawal of the French troops and the more threatening attitude of the soldiers under Juarez, came the understanding that he must take the field. With nothing to support him, disaster soon overtook him, and upon the 19th day of June, 1867, the life of Maximilian was ended by the bullet of the executioner. A tender and cherished memorial of him is this book-plate.
The plate of the Duchesse de Berry shows two oval shields with sprigs of lilies tied about them with the lac d’ amour. Underneath are the words Bibliotheque de Resney. By this plate and the shields of arms upon it Italy and France are connected, and one allows the mind to run back over the events which brought this daughter of Ferdinand I. of Italy to be the bride of the son of Charles X. The assassination of the Duke and the Legitimist support of the claims of her infant son, the Duke of Bordeaux, and the rising in favor of the Duchesse which took place in Brittany in 1832 only to be ended by the treachery which sent her to Sicily, are events too well known to need extended mention. The book-plate is a pretty bit, and with its memories forms a desirable addition to the collector’s album.
Among the interesting plates of French celebrities that of Leon Gambetta should be mentioned. This design represents the dawn, chanticleer crowing with might and main in one corner, while above is the gallant motto, Vouloir cest Pouvoir. This was designed and engraved by M. Alphonse Legros about the year 1874, when he was in Paris upon the commission of Sir Charles Dilke to secure a portrait of Gambetta, and the suggestion is supposed to have come from M. Poulet-Malassis. The curious thing about the plate is that M. Gambetta himself asserted that he never used it in a book ! Proofs of the plate are known in four states and all very rare, while the original copper itself is now in the possession of the President of the Societe Francaise des Collectionneurs d’Ex Libris in Paris. It is hardly to be expected that M. Gambetta had many books or had much leisure in which to enjoy them. The instincts of the bibliophile are not to be credited to him.
Curious and interesting in a very similar way is the plate of M. Victor Hugo, in which the towers of the cathedral of Notre Dame are seen in the blackness, relieved by a jagged flash of lightning which passes before them and upon which is the name of the owner of the plate. A monogram is also given upon the front of the building. This design came from the mind of M. Aglaus Bouvenne and was drawn in 1870.
There is in the possession of a French collector an original letter from M. Hugo to M. Bouvenne in which he thanks him for the plate, with which he expresses himself as charmed, and adds, “Votre ex libris marquera tous les livres de la Bibliotheque a Hautville House.” The letter is dated from naurville House, 10 Juillet, ’70. The events which occurred shortly after this letter was written are well remembered, and in the troubles of the years that followed may probably be found an explanation of the fact that the plate was little used in the few books (less than threescore) of which the noted novelist and historian died possessed.
M. Bouvenne was also the designer of the plate of M. Theophile Gautier, who was not only a novelist and dramatist, but a lover of books and who had a library of considerable worth, which was sold after his death at the Hotel Druout. For some reason these books containing the plate of this widely known litterateur brought but a small sum. Prosper-Merimee, distinguished as a novelist, used a book-plate of very diminutive proportions, which was designed by no less a hand than that of Viollet-le-Duc.
Paul Lacroix, eminent as a bibliographer, novelist, and historian of the arts, sciences, and literature of the Middle Ages, used a very simple plate to denote his ownership of a book. A little over one inch wide by a little less than two long, it contained a picture of a pile of books with nude children about, an inkstand, lamp, etc. On the pages of an open book were the initials and nom-de-plume of the famous librarian, P. L. Jacob Bibliophile. The suitable motto read, Livres vielz et antiques Livres nouveaux Etienne Dolet.
Devambez designed a very pleasing plate for Charles Monselet, in which a corner of the latter’s library is revealed: a curtain drawn back holds the owner’s name, richly bound books lie upon the floor, ? it is assumed for the purpose of showing their handsome sides and not as an indication of the usual appearance of the room, ? and rolls of manuscript are gathered under a handsome table.
The Vicomtesse de Bonnemains, whose influence over the late General Boulanger is said to have been the means of preventing the establishment of the Comte de Paris on the throne of his ancestors, uses a book-plate of the usual modern French armorial character. Crowned lions support the shields accolle, and a coronet is placed above, the design being enclosed within a circle and its background being bespattered with the devices of Diane de Poitiers, so well known upon her book-bindings.
The book-plate of modern France is characterized by a certain quality of lightness and gracefulness which, while pretty in its way, does not hide the fact that it is rather meaningless and empty. Mere ornament, however delicate and fanciful, hardly serves as a satisfactory book-plate. It may be clever as a piece of designing, but as the mark of ownership in so important and solid a thing as a good book it is not in keeping. There are quantities of these to be seen in the collectors’ albums, in which very graceful cupids and very prettily disposed books are over and again the hackneyed features, but they do not make the sensible and pleasing book-plate which the more purposeful designs of the English and American engravers do. Exceptions there are, of course, to this rule and among them is an exceedingly tasteful plate for Madame L. B., which shows this woman bibliophile in her library enjoying some favorite volume: this is a portrait plate, and is one of the most satisfactory that I have ever seen. The reader sits near her well-filled shelves, which are seen through the glass door of the cabinet, and with an air of unconscious absorption reads from the good-sized book held upon the arm. The design is simple and pleasing, the etching remarkably good, so that in this plate one feels that the modern French book-lover may find a model and an inspiration that may lead him to draw designs which shall be at once pretty in a good sense while effective and adapted to its purpose.