24mo (109 x 62 mm). Recueil:  leaves: engraved title within decorative border and 25 etchings with engraving, including frontispiece; Sécretaire, 48 pp., double-rule page borders. -page letterpress calendar for 1780. A couple of small marginal stains. Contemporary red morocco, sides with triple gilt fillet panel, smooth spine gold-tooled in compartments, the second with green morocco gilt lettering-piece, board edges with three-part sleeve for a stylus, blue endpapers, gilt edges (some spotting to covers). ***
A fine fashion almanac for ladies and gentlemen, showing various stations of society in appropriate dress. Dispensing with unnecessary text, Desnos’s 24 fashion plates are equally divided between women — in pouf hairstyles or wearing complicated hats — and men. Shown en pied (full length) in pastoral settings, the two sexes are bound in facing each other (the engravings were printed two to a sheet on one side only and bound in as bifolia). At the foot of each engraving is an explanatory caption, providing fashion historians with exact terminology for certain styles and accessories in the last years of the ancien régime (e.g., “Jeune Dame en petit deshabillé du matin en amadis et à cocluchon avec un Bonnet en cascade et un fichu à 3 pointes”). Four captions are dated 1778.
Here, the first couple are the most luxuriously attired and are of the highest station; they may have been understood to portray the King and Queen. The lady (who holds a fan) wears a voluminous, farthingaled robe with an opening of lace and layers of embroidery, and an enormous feathered and beribbonned pouf; the caption reads: “Dame dans sa grande parure, coëffée avec un bonnet orné de plumes, et de guirlandes de chêne et de laurier.” The gentleman, in a similarly richly adorned waistcoat, and wearing a telltale Maltese cross, is described as “Grand seigneur, décoré d’un Cordon bleu avec un St. Esprit brodé sur son habit aussi brodé sur toutes les coutures.”
Desnos issued the etchings in various contexts: with the same title, along with 24 others, also in small format; in octavo format, with the engravings as printed, four to a leaf, with the title Recueil général de Coëffures de différens goûts; and recycled among various other later almanacs. The illustrations were inspired by (but not directly copied from) a series of etchings after Claude-Louis Desrais (1746-1816), published in 1785 under the title Suite des Nouvelles Modes françaises (Gaudriault, Répertoire de la gravure de mode françaises, p. 139).
As usual Desnos joined to this almanac his helpful notebook, the Sécrétaire, with its tables for household expenses, and many blank leaves for notes, all within rule borders; this edition concluding (pp. 41-48) with four leaves of Desnos’ special coated reusable paper. An old note appears on p. 41 of this copy, as well as a partly effaced inscription on the front flyleaf.
The frontispiece is a bust portrait of a woman (the Queen) wearing the “Coiffure à la Belle Poule,” a pouf hairdo topped by a miniature sailing ship. This famous coiffure had an American connection. It was worn by Marie Antoinette to celebrate the naval victory in June 1778 of the French frigate La Belle Poule against English forces, which marked the beginning of French involvement in the American Revolutionary War. Unfortunately the Queen chose this extravagant accessory shortly after having “piously declared that the nation needed new warships more than she needed new diamond jewelry” (Weber, Queen of Fashion, p.123), provoking an outpouring of satirical prints and pamphlets.
OCLC locates only the BnF copy (issue not stated). Cohen-de Ricci col. 69 (attributing the engravings to Desrais); cf. Grand Carteret 640. Item #4268