ARBEZ-CARME, [Elie Eugène]. ~ [Chansons], Bourg-en-Bresse, Ain [Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes], 1898-9.
Illustrated manuscript, small folio (295 × 190 mm), 189 songs on 71 lined notebook pages, plus decorative title and 3 pp. Table at end, decorative headings with accompanying drawings to most pages, coloured with watercolour and crayon. Very light spotting and browning. Original boards, covered (by the owner) with cream linen, pastedowns made from lithographed waste paper, upper cover titled in pencil. Front free endpaper creased and torn. Three loose sheets inserted (one a lithograph menu, one certificate de bonne conduite, 1890 and one manuscript song).
An illustrated chansonnier, highly decorated, and including songs such as: Souvenir de ‘70, Les Femmes soldats, Le Baiser, l’Anglaise, Le Testament du Libre-Penseur, Marche du Bataillon d’Afrique, L’Africaine, Départ pour Madagascar, La Pucelle de Bellville, Les Prisonniers morts pour la liberté.
These notebooks are a fascinating example of a popular method of collecting popular French cabaret songs, all neatly copied up with headings and illustrations (usually suitably suggestive) copied from contemporary song sheets (an example of one of these loose sheets is loosely inserted). We have seen several similar examples, in which the illustrations are apparently traced using carbon paper from printed (or other manuscripts) exemplars. Their context is usually military or naval and they represent a significant form of popular or naive art.
The decorative title, with elaborate borders describes Arbez Carme as ‘employé au Magasin des Vivres de Réserve du 23me Reg[im]ent d’Inf[anter]ie a Bourg, Ain’. Military records record his birth in 1876 in Jura, his occupation as a perruquier (wigmaker) and his recruitment in 1896.