A Visit to Colmar book fair

Pausing only to put our snowshoes and extra warm jumpers away, Marcia and I went to the airport to go to the the SELAC fair (Salon européen du livre ancien et de la gravure de Colmar).

Colmar is a very nice little town in Alsace, just inside France. The border is so close that in the airport you choose whether to walk through customs into France, Germany or Switzerland.

Once there, we had a lovely time, with 40 dealers from France and Germany. Having met up with Kurt from Catawiki, we set off around the fair.  Two things particularly stood out for me here. One was the sheer number of excellent limited, illustrated editions by French authors (often in very limited numbers indeed), and the number of exhibitors who displayed beautiful visual pieces. Indeed, for me, this was almost a varied and fascinating art exhibition.

One of the first stands to catch my eye, was Antiquariat Barbian, from Saarbrucken with some marvellous Chagall colour lithographs printed by Mourlot of Paris, such as this editions of Le Monstres de Notre Dame 


Another stand with striking images was a local exhibitor, librairie le Cadratin of Colmar. They had some wonderful images of the Alps, including this dramatic ascent of Chamonix by Adolphe Braun.braun

My final image, was from a series of Caricatures. Pierre Chatillon was a Swiss national, who had been imprisoned during the first world war for a less than flattering image of Kaiser Willhelm. Whilst incarcerated, he produced a fabulous series of original works, all caricatures of his gaolers and other German officers. This delightful image was my favourite (See header image).These were offered, along with some original Gustave Dore illustrations by librairie Pierre Calvet


Naturally I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, and brought far too many books. In fact so many, that we had book extra baggage on the plane home, and drag Kurt along on a trip to Strasbourg in order to purchase a suitcase. Marcia was most displeased!  My favourite purchase kept up with the theme of artistic items – I picked up a lovely photograph album showing the carnival floats at Nice in 1897


Money and energy depleted, we set of home once again, to briefly rest before packing up our stock, and preparing for the Maastricht MAPF and TEFAF next weekend.

Napoleonic bureaucracy

One of the reasons that I love dealing in rare books and ephemera, is the diversity. 1684-1The many backwaters of knowledge that they lead you into. Part of the joy of being a generalist, is that you have to get to grips with many topics, and learn them quickly.  Yesterday, I was aware that after the battle of Waterloo, the British stayed in France for a short time. Today, I am familiar with the formation of the 5th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Anglo-Allied Army in Flanders. Useful stuff, I am sure you will agree.

What initially seemed to be a reasonably interesting letter from the Occupying Army of 1816, found on the wall of a French café (and haggled over in my inexcusably bad French, with a poor Madame, who didn’t even have the letter on sale), has left me spending hours looking at the structure of the army, and into some of the personalities of the time.

Poor Sir James Willoughby Gordon (one of the three officers copied into the letter. All things army, must of course be written in triplicate). Despite his rank and obvious skills, he was so “inordinately vain and self opinionated” that he was universally unpopular. Having been sent to the Peninsula to act as Wellington’s quartermaster, he was so arrogant and rude, that he was sent back to England almost immediately. He lived out his days as the Quartermaster General to the Royal Artillery at Horse Guards.

honfleur_1Poor Lt. Col. Marlay, (This letter was his copy). He lost his father to the army, he served in America during the war of Independence, and was captured at the Battle of Saratoga. Our Marlay served with distinction at Waterloo, and was made a Companion of Bath (C.B.)

Poor General Sir George Murray, who instigated the letter. He had been sent across to Canada at the same time that Napoleon was exiled. When the call for his return came, he dashed back across the Atlantic, but too late to take part in the Battle of Waterloo, much to his Chagrin. By the time of this letter, he was Chief of Staff to the Army of Occupation.  He shouldn’t worry too much though. It seems that half of Australia (including the city of Perth) was named in his honour.

Lt. Col Gold (the letter writer himself) seems a much more down to earth character. He came with an excellent pedigree, his father having been with General Wolfe in Quebec, and dying in the battle of Bunker Hill.  Gold served under Earl Cornwallis at the defeat of Tippoo Sahib’s army in India, and took part in the capture of Pondicherry. He was the author of “Oriental Drawings sketched between the years 1791 and 1798″ a sought after item in its own right.

At Waterloo, Gold commanded  the artillery of the 2nd Division under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton. He was mentioned in dispatches by General Wood, and was appointed a Companion of Bath. In 1816, he commanded the Royal Artillery at the Headquarters of the Allied Army of Occupation, and from time to time, the whole force of British Artillery in that Army until its return from France. Eventually he became a full Colonel. He died in 1841, leaving three sons, who became a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Captain, and a Lieutenant-General (the last commanding the 65th Regiment in New Zealand).

So much useful information, and all coming my way because Marcia chose a particularly quaint café for us to have our afternoon refreshments in. By the way. I also discovered that a Landaulet was a cut down carriage – a truncated Landau.