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Pierre-Etienne Janet
Toujours de l'amour: almanach nouveau sur les plus jolis airs
circa 1792-1797

In the last decade of the eighteenth century--amid some of the most tumultuous political times in the history of France--Pierre-Étienne Janet publishes an almanac of love songs in a richly-decorated binding. There is nothing in the text, the plates, or the hand-wrought covers that bespeak the Revolution, the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, or the war being waged against Austria. The miniature book for ladies offers love poems--to be sung to existing tunes--interspersed with engraved plates, some of which evoke classical or medieval themes.

The survival of the elaborate binding is remarkable. It comprises decorated vellum; front and back covers, each with an onlaid, gold-tooled black morocco cartouche frame with cut-out areas at top and bottom revealing papier-maché gold-and-silver ornaments on a red ground and with circular cut-out roundels on the sides; original water and gouache paintings covered in protective mica; and a spine painted and gilt to resemble citron morocco. The inside covers are lined in pink satin and framed in gold braid, and mounted on the front inside cover is a mirror, made from mica, allowing the owner a convenient and discreet means to check her cheek color or reapply her lip rouge.

The almanac exemplifies the dual role played by publisher-binders, such as Pierre-Étienne Janet (1746-1830), who outsourced the printing of almanacs and then custom-bound them in his workshop. Janet had inherited the business of relieur-doreur from his father-in-law, Jean-Pierre Jubert (active 1771-1789), a well-known publisher of almanacs: Jubert produced luxury gold-tooled morocco bindings as well as mirrored almanac covers. Active from 1776, Janet set up shop in the rue St-Jacques around 1790, where he worked from no. 31 from 1793 to 1801, continuing his father-in-law's business in the production of "small almanacs with mirrors, covered in satin or watered silk, with or without slipcase," and meanwhile building up the branch of "ephemeral publishing," including gift books and children's books, which would later become the mainstay of the firm under his son Louis Janet.

For a closer look at the book, request the item in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Back and front covers

Mirror (inside cover) and bookplate

"Les Amans et les buveurs, ou l'assemblage fortuné; Pot-pourri moral et bachique"

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