MISSEL. by (PRAYER BOOK).

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~ MISSEL. [Paris: Bouasse-Lebel, c. 1900].

Lithographed text, entirely decorated and illuminated by hand in pen, ink and watercolour (including gold), 8vo (pp. [42, plus 2 blank leaves at opening and 3 at rear, with additional decoration by hand. On thick paper, each leaf mounted on paper guards. Contemporary marbled calf, gilt, gilt edges, with slipcase.

An unusual and rather beautiful variant of the lithographed prayerbook illuminated by hand, probably given as a wedding gift, with the nuptial mass and prayers at the end. Such books, printed with broad blank margins could be purchased with a range of more-or-less unique embellishments in manuscript by talented anonymous ecclesiastical artists, usually women. This example is unusual for the range of its decorative motifs, including flowers, insects, stained glass windows, a sailing boat, elephants, a frog and peacocks. It combines consciously medieval imagery (notably a lady with a unicorn) with a delightful fin-de-siècle lightness, with elements of japonisme and art nouveau.

The final full page images include a nativity scene with named bells on the opposing page: Jacques, Marie and Magdelain, perhaps a personalisation for its particular owner, again, almost certainly a woman. The lithographed text has no imprint or other marks of publication, but the silk ribbon marker is woven with the name of Bouasse-Lebel, one of the major Catholic devotional publishers of later nineteenth century.

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