Hommage aux dames. — Souvenirs et pensées. Paris: (Richomme for) Louis Janet, [1820 /1821].
18mo (binding size 123 x 80 mm). ,156 pp. Engraved title with stipple-engraved vignette, and 6 engraved plates, after Fragonard (2), Wilkie (3), and Mlle. Lescot. 8-pp. calendar for 1821. Souvenirs:  pages, entirely engraved: title with medallion vignette and 12 pages for notes, blank except for medallion vignette of a putto and the name of the month. Printed on wove paper, the Souvenirs on thinner paper; occasional faint foxing. Publisher’s decorative case binding of gilt paper boards, covers each with a different onlay of white paper with hand- or stencil-colored engraved frame comprising 8 emblematic and ornamental compartments, colored in red, green, blue, pink, yellow and gold, backstrip onlay with ivy and blossoms, gilt edges, green glazed endpapers, matching slipcase (with different decorated frame design), lined in pink glazed paper; some very slight scuffing, slipcase rubbed and soiled.***
A fine annual literary almanac, preserved in its original cartonnage (paper-covered boards) with matching slipcase. This pretty if largely vacuous production for ladies, containing poems, chansons and short prose pieces by popular or aspiring writers, illustrated with six engravings, appeared yearly from 1813 to 1835. Editorship has been attributed to Charles Malo. The engraved plates, each with an accompanying description, reproduce paintings by Fragonard, David Wilkie, and Antoinette Cécile Hortense Lescot; the latter’s pious painting is noted to have been exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1817. Like all issues this one contains a supplementary quire titled Souvenirs, with one page per month for personal notes, each illustrated with a delightful stipple-engraved roundel. Grand-Carteret tells us that these Souvenirs were hotly collected (”fort recherchés”) later in the century, citing the high prices in an 1896 bookseller’s catalogue (p. xlix, note 2).
Among the poems are a delightful short love poem to “A Portrait” by Marceline Desbordes-Valmores, and a longer, quasi-feminist poem defending the right of women to speak about politics, by the princesse [Constance] de Salm (”Stances addressées aux hommes, sur les femmes qui s’occupent de politique”). More conventional is a pastoral poem by the late “dame [Marie-Emilie Maryon de] Montanclos” (d. 1812). A few other women may have been hiding behind initials and surnames. With the exception of Pierre Didot (Didot fils aîné) and the duc de Nivernois (Louis-Jules Barbon Mancini-Mazarini), most of the contributors were obscure even then.
Such almanacs were typically given, mainly to women, as traditional New Years Day gifts or étrennes (from which some almanacs had derived their titles). During the Bourbon Restoration, when cheaper paper bindings had largely replaced the leather or textile of the most luxurious 18th century almanacs, somewhat more than half of a typical press-run would be cased in colorful cartonnages, as here, and furnished with a calendar, while the remainders were placed in printed wrappers and set aside, sometimes to be reoffered with a new title (op. cit., p. lii, note 1). Pierre-Claude-Louis Janet (1788-1840), “the most famous publisher of almanacs, was known for the particular care he took in producing them” (Malavieille, p. 20).
Indicating the grass-roots sources of almanac literature, a prefatory note from the editor instructs anyone wishing to submit a piece to do so before May 15, in order to be sure to get into the next year’s issue. In form and content this almanac perfectly corroborates an amusing contemporary description, quoted at length by Grand-Carteret, of a crowded bookshop in Paris on New Years Day, with its brightly colored shelves and eager customers, including the rich man who pays 20 francs for a “brilliant Almanac,” whose negligible contents he would have sneered at were it in an ordinary binding, and the young man leafing through a new almanac with trembling fingers, seeking his two lines of verse... did the editor include them?
Victoria Dailey has a copy with the same date, whose contents differ entirely, both in text and plates, as well as in the engraved Souvenirs.
The BnF, which has digitized six issues, not including this one, dates each volume after the calendar, but of course they were printed the previous year, though released only on New Year’s Day. Grand-Carteret, Les almanachs français 1680 & pp. xlviii-lii; cf. S. Malavieille, Reliures et cartonnages d'éditeur en France au XIXe siècle (1985), pp. 19-20. Item #4031