Maggs Bros Ltd

Hommage aux Dames.

ALMANACH  ([1814])


Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.

16mo. Engraved title page vignette and six engraved plates, each of the monthly notes pages or "Souvenir" with an attractive head-piece framing charming zodiacal "cameos". Some very light browning, otherwise very good indeed in the original decorated glazed green paper-covered boards, a.e.g., in the original matching slip-case, a little rubbed. [viii], [12pp.] Calendar, [12pp.] description of the plates, 152pp. [12pp.] "Souvenir ou Nécessaire des Dames. Chez Janet Libraire, Rue St. Jacques, No.59, [Paris],

Exquisite little Lady's Almanach published in Paris by François Janet, member of a minor French engraving and publishing dynasty. This edition contains six plates engraved by Janet after Terburg, Stein, Spada and others.

A jewel-like volume, its appeal much enhanced by a series of jottings in a miniscule hand that runs through the calendar pages. These notes sketch the outlines of the important appointments and events on the owner's tour around France and Italy - Marseilles, Livorno, Pisa, Florence and Rome - with her husband "Ed[war]d". The itinerary reveals that the couple moved in a fairly elevated circle, dining with the Duchess of Devon, Lady Elphinstone, Lord Winchilsea, Lord Exmouth and when in Florence they are entertained by Lord Burghersh. We also learn that they are Catholics, the unnamed diarist records her visits to confession, on the 8th of February they go to "see the burial of the Carnival" in Marseilles, and in Rome, Edward is presented to the Pope.

However, running alongside this social calendar is a record of the events of the Hundred Days as they impinged on these quite Grand Tourists. On the 15th March she remarks, "Bonaparte landed at Cannes", followed by "Bonaparte entered Lyons and quitted it on the 18th for Paris... entered Paris on the 20th." On April 12th "The three coloured flag was hoisted at Marseilles" and in May they witness a Grand Review of the troops by Gen. Le Brune. But it is evident that they began to feel threatened, the National Guard are disarmed "to prevent any resistance", troops are stationed around the city and at the end of the month, "The Champs de Mai, great riots in the town, several people wounded by the soldiers who were drunk".

In June, as Napoleon's crash fast approaches, the diarist still finds it worth recording that on the 7th she "had apricots for the first time" and on the 16th makes a trip "to see the fishing of the Thon [tuna]" but the weather is too rough and they do not stay to see the "drawing of the nets". However, on the 20th news from the North intrudes, "Report of a Victory for the English" and on the 25th "Heard of the overthrow of Napoleon and the Army". The situation now becomes distinctly fraught and in July she writes, "Horrors committed in the town and several people killed. All the troops quitted the town in the night before they began their march they fired a great deal on the people". So it is no surprise that at the beginning of August they depart for Leghorn [Livorno], sailing on the Impregnable with Admiral Rowley. Once they arrive in Italy social equilibrium is restored and the engagements resume, going to balls at Lord Burghersh and the Austrian Ambassador in Florence, and visiting the Pope's chapel in Rome. It seems that the pleasure of diary keeping, even at this lowish level palled, and in December she notes a couple of letters sent and no more.

This really is a delightfully allusive piece, the delicate charms of which were not lost on the impeccably martial Sir Bindon Blood, whose ownership inscription is pencilled on the title page. Also loosely inserted is the General's carte-de-visite with the MS addition of Lady Blood and note "A trifle I think you will like! With Christmas Wishes..."


A rather strange note is struck by the "bookplate" mounted on the front pastedown. A clipped engraving of a serpent, closely twined around the Tree of Knowledge with an apple in its beaked jaws. Seemingly an odd choice for this typically feminine production. Its import for the owner will remain a mystery as does her name, despite considerable efforts to unravel her identity.

Stock Code: 89265