L’archive du tombeau de Louis Menard

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Le tombeau de Louis Ménard and A propos du tombeau de Louis Ménard were among the first things I cataloged when I began working at the Clark 6 years ago and they were a great introduction to the wide variety of formats in the Clark’s manuscript collections.  Though these two companion volumes look like innocent codex manuscripts, bound in red morocco with fancy marbled endpapers, they are anything but normal bound manuscripts —

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— they are actually a bound archive.

In 1901 and 1902, French publisher and writer Edouard Champion compiled the book Le tombeau de Louis Ménard in honor of the writer, scholar and chemist Louis-Nicholas Ménard (1822-1901).  The published book itself is made up of letters from prominent scholarly, literary and political figures regarding Ménard and his legacy, and appropriately enough, Champion bound his copy of Le tombeau with an assortment of letters and calling cards from the book’s contributors and other well-wishers.  There was enough material in this archive to make a second volume of calling cards and letters, A propos du tombeau de Louis Ménard.  Individuals represented in the Tombeau archive include Georges Clemenceau, Remy de Gourmont, Robert Comte de Montesquiou, Léon Bloy, Jean Bertheroy, and Maurice Barrès, just to name a few.

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Sully Prudhomme’s calling card pictured in the front

As in any archive of correspondence, the letters and items gathered together by Champion range widely in size, making the job of binding a somewhat onerous task.  How do you bind together material that is so varied size-wise?  You could just paste everything in a scrapbook larger than the biggest piece of paper in the archive, but that would result in lost text when double-sided letters get pasted down (and most items in this archive are written on both sides).  The solution Champion’s bookbinder settled on was pretty perfect for this particular project.  Instead of trying to work with the pages of the archive itself, the bookbinder bound together a set of short stubby pages onto which the materials in the archive are glued.

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Of course, the easiest option would have been to keep all of these letters in a box, like a traditional archive.  But Champion clearly wanted to have these letters housed in a more bookish way (fitting, given his profession) and I am glad he did, as these two volumes are fascinating objects.  They are arguably easier to casually browse than a box of letters might be, and they easily fit on a shelf alongside other books.

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Edouard Champion, collector, Le tombeau de Louis Ménard and A propos du tombeau de Louis Ménard, MS.2008.004 and MS.2008.005, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.

 

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