24mo (109 x 58 mm). Trésor: 48 pp.,  leaves. Engraved title showing a putto holding up the magic hexagon, and 10 engraved plates by Dorgez, all with contemporary hand-coloring; a 12-page typographic calendar for 1792. Bound before the calendar is the Nécessaire, printed on blue paper, 48 pp. Title printed on verso of first leaf, pages 4-13 blank except for headings of days of week and rule border, 42-48 with rule border only, 12 entirely blank leaves (of blue paper) at end. A few jottings. Contemporary red morocco, sides paneled with triple gilt fillets, spine gold-tooled, green morocco gilt lettering-piece, board edges with three-part gilt morocco sleeve for the stylus (absent), gilt edges. ***
A fine copy, with the engravings hand-colored, of a Revolutionary-era almanach galant containing an elaborate fortune-telling game, bound with a pocket diary printed on and advertising a special paper that can be written on with a metal stylus.
The rules are explained at the outset: the player chooses one of 10 suggested questions (”who will break up first?, Will I be rich?”, etc.), and tosses a dice on a hexagon divided into numbered compartments, depicted on the engraved title; this leads her through a series of numbered charts to the answer in the text, which consists of songs set to popular tunes, largely on the themes of love, sex, duplicity and heartache. To fill out the final quire, the last few leaves contain unrelated satirical poems, including the first appearance of “le Teinturier Malade” (the sick dyer), which pokes fun at the medical profession and was often reprinted. The title and some of the games are based on Henri Decremps’ best-selling book La Magie blanche dévoilée.
The game is illustrated with hand-colored engravings by Dorgez, one of the more talented almanac illustrators, showing allegorical personifications of the titles of each chapter: Truth, Chance, Fortune, Destiny, the Good Fairy, Good Genie, Sybil, and a mother (for the chapter “Mother knows everything”), portrayed as a crone-like fortune-teller, with magic lantern and owl, enticing passersby to come try their luck. Also depicted are Nostradamus, and, in a nod to the almanac tradition, the legendary (and fictive) mathematician and astrologer Matthieu Laensberg, whose name became a synonym of the Almanachs de Liège.
In 1789 Pierre-Etienne Janet (1746-1830) took over the shop and bindery of his father-in-law the publisher and binder Pierre Jubert, the most important innovator in French almanac publishing. Following in Jubert’s footsteps, Janet established himself in the rue St. Jacques, and systematically published almanacs, most illustrated and offered in a variety of leather and embroidered bindings. He eventually built up the business to become one of the largest French publishers of gift books, almanacs, and children’s books, ephemeral genres which would become the mainstay of the firm under his son Louis Janet. Like Jubert, Janet mixed and matched with his almanacs various accessory texts and rewriteable notebooks, including the Nécessaire, an interactive pocket diary inherited from Jubert, and kept constantly in print for binding with almanacs. Described in the long title and the facing “Usage” (how-to) page as being on a special paper which could be written on with a “mineral stylus,” and including monthly tables for noting wins and losses at the gaming table, and blank leaves for miscellaneous notes, the Nécessaire embraced the personalized functions of almanacs as date books, portable account books, and jotting pads. On page 40 is a full-page advertisement for Janet’s almanacs and for his bookbinding services, reproducing word-for-word Jubert’s original ads.
OCLC records two copies in the US, at NYPL and Bryn Mawr (acquired from us: uncolored, with different calendar, in an embroidered binding). Grand-Carteret, Les almanachs français 1074; Cohen-de Ricci, Guide de l’Amateur des livres à gravures du XVIIIe siècle 74; cf. Léon Gruel, Manuel historique et bibliographique de l'amateur de reliure I:114 (reproducing the Jubert advertisement). Item #4082