Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another very old book

Article by JMB

Grose's book: Principes de Caricatures is the first ‘How to Cartoon’ published in France, but the book: ‘Musée de la caricature’ (Museum of Caricature) by Jaime is a survey of satirical and humorous etchings from the Middle-Ages to the Napoleonic period. It is the very first French methodical historical analysis of caricature. For this very reason, it deserves to be presented too.

There is no mention of a limited edition and I don’t know how many copies were printed, but as this book was published in 1838, of course it is hard to find. It was never be reprinted.

There are two volumes with 230 numbered etched plates on 226 leaves (sixty-five hand-colored and fifteen folding), and 320 pages of text by fifteen authors explaining every caricature, its situation, its characters and meaning, as well as its historical backgrounds.

Here is a quotation about this book: "The reader soon realized that the history of France for the preceding five centuries could be studied through caricatures, and that valuable insights could be found about the history of religious conflicts, class struggles, and attitudes towards authority" (Aaron Sheon, "The Discovery of Graffiti," Art Journal, Volume 36, No. 1 [Autumn 1976], p. 17).

Ernest Jaime (1802-1884) is both the editor of this collection and the gifted engraver of all these caricatures which he exactly copied from the original sources.

If each volume is 22 x 28 cm and it has almost the same number of etchings. The first one runs from the 14th century to 1788, when the second volume runs from the French Revolution to Napoleon’s fall in 1815.

The content of these volumes was originally issued in eighty parts between 1834 and 1835, which were distributed to subscribers. Each part had four pages of text to which were added two or three etched plates on full leaves. The first parts of Museum of Caricature were published in one bound volume by Hautecœur & Martinet in 1834, but this collection only contains 144 plates. Its subtitle is: Picturesque History of French Satire, Malice and Gaiety

XVIIth century
The complete edition in two volumes is subtitled ‘Collection of the Most Remarkable Caricatures from the 14th Century till Nowadays’. Indeed it deals as well with notable political events as with particular social themes of that times: manners, fashion and mores; such as the difficulties in Paris, like the French writer Nicolas Boileau described them in the verses of his satirical lampoon ‘Satires”, in 1666.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

At the end of this article, I apology for not having cleared up every cartoon but set some hypertext links in place of, as it had been a too long and hard task to detail each one and explain it in English. Nevertheless, I would not finish this presentation without an explanation of this last caricature about Napoleon and Field Marshal Ney. I must first say that French humor is often based on puns: we, French people, use and love to play with words. This plate is entitled ‘Le serment de Ney’ (Ney’s oath). But since ‘serment’ and ‘serrement’ (squeezing) sound similarly and since ‘Ney’ and ‘nez’ (nose) sound the same, the Ney’s oath is also understood as a ‘nose squeezing’

article by JMB

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