Les plaisirs et les jours.
Illustrations de Madeleine Lemaire. Préface d'Anatole France. Et quatre pièces pour piano de Reynaldo Hahn.Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1896 Stock Code: 144631
Proust's first book, illustrated by Madeleine LemaireFirst edition, first printing, of the first book published by Proust before his rise to stardom, in an attractive art déco binding by the French bookbinder Max Fonsèque (1891-1965), and superbly illustrated by the society-painter Madeleine Lemaire (1845-1928).
Some of the poems and short stories in this work had appeared in print from 1892 in magazines, notably Le Banquet and La Revue Blanche, but Proust was still little-known at the time. The 25-year-old writer thus aimed his first book at the influencing elite of the Belle Epoque, both in quality, with its elaborate format and high cost, and contents, featuring contributions by its own members. "Friends and reviewers who noted France's preface, Hahn's music, and Lemaire's drawings wondered whether Pleasures and Days was a book or a social event" (Carter, p. 213). And indeed, the exclusivity of this publication could not be ignored; "boasting a preface by Anatole France, whom Proust got to know in the salon prowlings where literary reputations were made and trashed, and adorned by the popular illustrations of Madeleine Lemaire, at whose salon Proust met personages who would figure in his later work, the book made a bit of a splash in the rarefied society cultivated by the novice author, and was widely ignored elsewhere" (Goodman). The endeavour would, however, pave the way for his far more successful À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (1913-27), drawing on these years among the Parisian literary intelligentsia, and with characters inspired from fellow members, such as his Madame Verdurin based on Lemaire.
Tall quarto (290 x 196 mm). Finely bound by Max Fonseque in green crushed morocco preserving the original pictorial green wrappers, titles in gilt to spine, boards with two horizontal and two vertical strips onlaid in yellow morocco, white silk with green and yellow flower pattern on boards and as endpapers, top edge gilt, others untrimmed.
14 tinted lithographs and numerous monochrome in-text illustrations by Madeleine Lemaire.
The spine uniformly sunned, light wear to corners, the binding otherwise firm and square, internally crisp; an attractive copy.
William C. Carter, "Marcel Proust: A Life", 2013; Walter Goodman, "Critic's Notebook; From Proustian Rice Paper to a Point-and-Click Race", in The New York Times, 18 April 2000.
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