Item of the week: La Belle “Bonne Chanson”

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Thanks to the Adam Wechsler Fund, the Clark Library was the successful bidder at a recent book auction. The prize? A copy of Paul Verlaine’s La Bonne Chanson with pochoir illustrations by Paul Guignebault. This book of poems was published in 1914 in two limited editions, one of 50 copies printed on japan paper containing a suite of separate illustrations and the other, of 450 copies, printed on Vélin. Our copy is not numbered, but is labeled as a “Unique” copy and is signed by the binder on the limitation page.

There are six separate portraits of Verlaine in various media, including ink and charcoal,  preceding the poems; original sketches in charcoal and watercolor and in ink and watercolor of each of the 62 illustrations from the published work, as well as 62 uncolored proof sheets that follow the text. The book is bound in full red levant morocco by René Kieffer, with six black morocco inlays containing gilt cornucopia emblems on front and rear boards. The spine compartments are lettered in gilt with patterned silk doublures and endpapers, and marbled flyleaves. It is housed in a morocco-edged marbled slipcase. A holograph poem of six 6-line stanzas titled, “Hand ignara mali,” with Verlaine’s autograph is tipped-in on the leaf preceding the half-title page.

The original printed paper wrapper is bound in. Kieffer’s label, as well as a bookseller’s label, that of Livraria Civilzaçao, in Brazil, are tipped-in on the flyleaf.

A page in the standard published version

We like that the original color sketches have been drawn onto tissue paper and that they are accompanied by monochromatic page proofs. The portraits of Verlaine, drawn at different periods of his life, give the viewer a wonderful sense of the poet’s physiognomy.

Original color sketch

Watercolor sketch

Monochromatic page proof

Call no.  PQ2463 .B72*

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