Antony and Cleopatra; With illustrations by Paul Avril

One of Only Twenty Copies Printed on Papier Vélin
Antony and Cleopatra Bound As Never Before
Magnificent Illustrations in Three States

[BINDING]. [Société des Beaux Arts]. SHAKESPEARE, William. Antony and Cleopatra. With Illustrations by Paul Avril. Paris: Société des Beaux Arts, [1894].

Edition de Deux Mondes, limited to twenty copies only, this copy not numbered. Quarto (10 1/4 x 7 5/8 inches; 261 x 195 mm.). iv, 253, [1, blank] pp. Printed on papier vélin. With five plates in three states, one color and one black and white, and twelve in-text illustrations in three states (full color, black and white, and single color) all with tissue guards.

Bound in a sumptuous purple crushed morocco lavishly gilt and inlaid in the Art Nouveau style, covers with large central fleur-de-lys in gilt and blue morocco within an elaborate frame of lily bouquets and garlands inlaid in red, orange, green, and cream; spine with four decoratively tooled raised bands, gilt in compartments, the smaller ones at head and tail with an inlaid green fleur-de-lys, large central compartment with a spray of lilies in red and cream, and two compartments with gilt titling. Broad wide turn-ins with elaborate gilt floral and foliate decoration. Blue morocco doublures, front doublure featuring an oval inset of white kidskin (or perhaps vellum) with a hand-colored engraving of Cleopatra. Ivory moiré silk endleaves, pale green marbled endpapers. Top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. The bottom of the sine has been expertly and invisibly repaired. pp. 25-32 have been misbound by the publisher (or the binder) and appear between pp. 39 and 43. The book is complete. A magnificent copy.

A fine luxury volume attractively printed on Japanese vellum with immense margins, beautifully bound in inlaid morocco, and well-illustrated with a series of engravings that were considered to be some of the most attractive of the period.

The Société des Beaux Arts produced lovely limited editions, usually numbering around 500 copies. Ours is a supremely luxurious, strictly limited issue with an elegant Art Nouveau binding.

Édouard-Henri Avril (21 May 1849 – 28 July 1928) was a French painter and commercial artist. Under the pseudonym Paul Avril, he was an illustrator of erotic literature. Born in Algiers, Avril studied art in various Paris salons. From 1874 to 1878 he was at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Having been commissioned to illustrate Théophile Gautier's novel Fortunio, he adopted the pseudonym Paul Avril. His reputation was soon established and he received many commissions to illustrate both major authors and the so-called "galante literature" of the day, a form of erotica. These books were typically sold in small editions on a subscription basis, organised by collectors.

Paul Avril illustrated such works as Gustave Flaubert's Salammbô, Gautier's Le Roi Caundale, John Cleland's Fanny Hill, William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Jean Baptiste Louvet de Couvray's Adventures of the Chevalier de Faublas, Mario Uchard's Mon Oncle Barbassou (scenes in a harem), Jules Michelet's The Madam, Hector France's Musk, Hashish and Blood, the writings of Pietro Aretino, and the anonymous lesbian novel Gamiani. His major work was designs for De Figuris Veneris: A Manual of Classical Erotica by the German scholar Friedrich Karl Forberg.

Many consider Cleopatra one of the most complex female characters in Shakespeare's body of work. She is frequently vain and histrionic, almost provoking an audience to scorn; at the same time, Shakespeare's efforts invest both her and Antony with tragic grandeur. These contradictory features have led to famously divided critical responses. It is difficult to classify Antony and Cleopatra as belonging to a single genre. It can be described as a history play (though it does not completely adhere to historical account), tragedy (though not completely in Aristotelian terms), comedy, and a romance. Item #03148

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