London: Eragny Press for Les Cent Bibliophiles, 1909. Octavo, measuring 8.75 x 5.5 inches: , 6-159, . Original full olive calf, gilt-stamped with carnation pattern. Wood-engraved title page printed in grey-green and gold; color pictorial opening page with gold initial; twelve historiated initials printed in gold and colors; illustrations and ornaments printed in grey-green and gold throughout text; colophon printed in grey-green and black. Text printed in red and black in Brook type on Arches handmade paper watermarked Eragny Press and Les Cents Bibliophiles. Original brown marbled slipcase edged in morocco. Lightest wear to spine ends and slipcase; endpapers offset onto facing blanks, as usual.
Fine press edition, one of 130 copies printed by the Eragny Press for La Société des Cent Bibliophiles; this is copy 44, printed for Carl De Geer. The Eragny Press was celebrated for its distinctive mix of French Impressionist and English Arts and Crafts styles, and for the quality of the wood engravings designed by Lucien Pissarro and engraved by Esther Pissarro. This edition of Gérard de Nerval’s Romantic novel about Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Histoire de la Reine du Matin, was first conceived by Lucien Pissarro in 1903, but its production was too expensive to contemplate. Six years later, Eugène Rodrigues, president of the Société des Cent Bibliophiles and a champion of fine printing, provided the Pissarros with the financial backing they required. Experimental and innovative in design, incorporating color printing and 23-carat gold leaf, Histoire de la Reine du Matin demonstrated the full capabilities of the Eragny Press, unique among contemporary fine presses for having every aspect of production executed by its proprietors: “No other revivalist private press comes close to the personal quality of an Eragny book” (Genz, 140). The beauty of the final product belies the technical, logistical, and financial challenges the Pissarros faced in its production: it would take two years and an extension of payment to complete the project to the high standard originally envisioned. Only one other such generous commission followed, Émile Moselly’s La Charrue d'Érable, printed for Le Livre Contemporain in 1912. Unable to financially sustain the press on their own, the Pissarros ended production in 1914, in the wake of World War I. Text in French. Genz EP29. A fine copy of a landmark in modern fine press printing.