Lettres Persanes. Charles Louis de Secondat MONTESQUIEU, baron de.

Lettres Persanes.

20 etched plates in two states (for a total of 40), the first series in black & white and the second finely hand-colored. Large 4to, blue morocco, two stylized “mosaïqué” figures, the first, on the upper cover, in Western attire, the other, on the lower cover, in Persian attire of the 18th century, two bands of brown morocco perpendicular to the spine, fine light blue silk doublures, spine gilt, leaves uncut (signed by Robert Bonfils). Paris: J. Terquem, 1926.

One of 223 numbered copies, of an edition of 265, of Montesquieu’s seminal narrative on cultural relativism, printed on Rives vellum paper. The splendid binding was designed by the influential illustrator and engraver Robert Bonfils (1886-1972), who for more than 30 years taught generations of book artists at the École Estienne in Paris and created renowned bindings for deluxe editions. The present work was once part of his private library (shown by the gilt monogram on the lower doublure). The etched illustrations were executed by Charles Martin (1884-1934), the master engraver of the early 20th century, and this copy contains two states of each illustration, one in black and white, the second in delicate watercolor. It begins with a preface written by Paul Valéry.

Several art historians and experts on bindings have written about Bonfils’ works (translated from French):

– Yves Peyré: “The geometry of the body, the restraint of the figuration, the freedom of movement, the purity of composition, the splendor of colors, the voluptuousness of the gold, the pleasant setting of materials, enough ingredients to guarantee subtlety without weakness in Bonfils’ bindings, which the perfection of his execution enhances even more.”

– Julien Fléty: “It is the image adapted to the binding, a matter of decoration which directly evokes the text. His bindings are truly illustrations of the books which they shelter so lavishly.”

Our binding has also been featured in two well-known exhibitions:

– Relieurs d’Art aujourd’hui (Metz, 2001, no. 6).

– Hommage aux relieurs fondateurs de la Société de la reliure originale (Paris, 2007, p. 83).

A superb copy in a lavish binding, in excellent condition. Gilt monogram of Bonfils on lower doublure and bookplate of “P.A.” on half-title. Housed in a brown morocco-backed box with title on spine.

❧ Benezit, Vol. 2, p. 800-1 (Bonfils); Vol. 9, p. 357 (Martin). Devauchelle, Vol. III, p. 245 & plate LXXX (in trans.)–“Bonfils did not only illustrate books; he knew how to dress them with a bold originality, made even more rare and precious that the execution of his bindings is perfected in its most delicate details. The concept of the ‘curious’ is adapted with precision and imagination on behalf of the spirit of the book for the delight of many bibliophiles.”.

Price: $12,500.00

Item ID: 6214