Catalogue Review: Librairie Metamorphoses

The second catalogue to appear from Librairie Métamorphoses is a tour de force. No surprise, considering that the Parisian firm was founded by Michel Scognamillo, former librarian and confidante to French collector Pierre Bergé, the lifelong business and romantic partner of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Before we talk about the contents, let’s look at the front matter. Smartly sheathed in a matte black binding and illustrated with a black-on-red silkscreen self portrait of Marcel Duchamp (#21 in the catalogue; price available on request), this volume is dedicated to Cédric Herrou, the 39-year-old olive farmer who ferried dozens of asylm seekers through France via what has been dubbed the French Underground Railroad. It is a fitting tribute, considering the contents of the catalogue are dedicated to the ideals of equality and freedom of expression.

 

So, what’s inside? Where to start? With the selection of material dedicated to poet Guillaume Apollinaire? Or the handwritten sheet music by George Bizet (€15,000)? Correspondence from George Sand to her dear friend Gustave Flaubert (€12,000) is marvelous, too, but perhaps the pièce de résistance is a 1671 edition of Molière’s The Middle Class Gentleman (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme), printed at the playwright’s expense and bound in its original vellum.

 

This particular volume is exceptional as a masterpiece of French literature and as a turning point in the editorial emancipation of Molière, who had personally financed the publication of his play Tartuffe in 1669. With The Middle Class Gentleman, Molière declined to transfer his rights to a bookseller after the play became successful, as he had done with Tartuffe. Now, the playwright retained all legal rights and profits for himself. And yet the haste with which this edition was printed is evident: typographical errors, erratic punctuation, and sloppy copy calibration abound, but these characteristics only add, according to the catalogue, “a certain charm” to the volume and to its rarity. Price available upon request.

There’s no website for Librairie Métamorphoses, but interested parties can visit the shop at 17 rue Jacob in the 6th arrondisement in Paris, call 33 06 13 92 76, or email at scolivre@gmail.com.

More treasures fill this beguiling catalogue, while the bibliographical notes are reason enough to seek it out. If only I had more than “pure praises” for Libraries Métamorphoses, but for now it will have to do

Eye Balm: 10 Bookish Insta Feeds to Put on Your Radar

Ah, January: that month touted as the time to refresh everything from one’s diet and wellness to home decor. Why not apply the same mentality to your daily Insta scroll with some new bibliocentric feeds.

Special collections libraries, rare booksellers and collectors have embraced Instagram as an ideal platform to virtually share their treasures with the world. Fellow FB&C writer Nate Pedersen wrote the inaugural “rare Books on Instagram” post back in 2016, profiling institutional accounts like those of the British Library (@britishlibrary), the American Antiquarian Society (@americanantiquarian), and others. Follow-up posts looked at librarian accounts and collector feeds. Keeping with that theme, below, in no particular order, are ten noteworthy institutional Instagram accounts that excel at showcasing rare books, manuscripts, and other works on paper.

 

Don’t have an Instagram account? No problem: All of these accounts are freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

La Bibliothèque nationale France (@labnf)

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The Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide (@uofaspecialcollections)

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The New York Public Library (@nypl)

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Musée de Cluny (@museecluny)

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The Harry Ransom Center (@ransomcenter)

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The Emily Dickinson Museum (@emilydickinson.museum)

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The Printing Museum (@theprintingmuseum)

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The HuntingtonLibrary (@thehuntingtonlibrary)

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The Johns Hopkins University (@jhuspecialcollections)

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The Alaska Digital Newspaper Project (@alaskahistoricalnewspapers)

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Harry Potter and History Collide at the New York Academy of Medicine

Bezoars, screaming mandrakes, and basilisks all figure in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but their origins date back centuries. Now, the New York Academy of Medicine has launched a digital exhibition exploring the connections between Rowling’s books and historical texts. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.