The two short stories that are related in Two Tales by Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and The Nightingale and the Rose, involve the tragic deaths of a sparrow and a nightingale, each sacrificing itself for the cause of true love. The engraver and printer F. L. Schmied and the bookbinder Georges Cretté decided to use this emblem on the volume's magnificent art deco binding. Set into the morocco leather of the front cover is a panel with the image of a dying bird created with cracked eggshell and lacquer by Jean Dunand after Schmied's design. The edition was limited to twenty copies. The opening displays Schmied's dramatic typographical treatment complemented by a horizontal band of engraving and explains the death of the nightingale:
If you want a red rose," said the Tree, "you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your lifeblood must flow into my veins, and become mine.In addition to the final printed text and illustrations, proofs for all illustrations, borders, and other design elements were also bound into the book.
|Front cover of binding with eggshell lacquer panel by Jean Dunand.|
|Design mock-up of front cover design bound into book.|
|Detail of eggshell lacquer panel...|
|Printed silk doublure (inside front board) with stamp for lacquer panel.|
|Detail of stamp.|
|Binder's stamp from inside of rear board, G[eorges] Cretté succ[essor] Marius Michel|
|Colophon/edition statement on verso of title page.|
|Text page showing borders/decorative elements|
|Full page illustration.|
|Proof for illustration above, bound in at back of book.|
|Proof for illustration, bound in at back of book.|
For more images of wonderful Art Deco livres d'artistes, including other examples of this edition see the auction catalog for the Bibliothèque Félix Marcilhac that can be downloaded in PDF.
Art Nouveau and Art Deco Bookbinding: French Masterpieces 1880-1940 by Alastair Duncan and Georges De Bartha is must have "book porn" for lovers of this era of binding. Lots of copies floating around at Amazon, ABE Books, ...
All binding images, Peter D. Verheyen from Wilde, Oscar. Two Tales. Paris : F.L. Schmied, 1926. Contains: The Happy Prince and The Nightingale and the Rose.8 leaves, xxviii p., 5 leaves, xxvi p., 6 leaves, 102 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm. Permission of: Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries