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In 1896 the French publisher Plon-Nourrit & Cie came out with what rapidly became the icon of Nineteenth Century French children’s books.

he book simply titled Jeanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc) recounts the heroic events of France’s best known hero, the medieval female figure of legends Jeanne who at the head of a male bodied army united the French and battled marauding invaders, finally ending up at the stake for her beliefs (Something the modern media tends to do to the non- politically correct). Every French man and woman grows up knowing  that the “Nation” is a feminine word in the French language.

The book was conceived by a painter and illustrator of children’s books by the name of Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850-1913). Boutet de Monvel was an accomplished painter who had studied under the painters Boulanger and Duran at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

The linen cream colored cover of the book has gold printing and is embellished with armour and a wreath. The book measuring 24.5 cms. H x 32 cms. W (9 3/4″x 13″) has 47 numbered pages, all of them colored plates with the text placed inside. A novel way of presentation and printing, is the muted flat use of color and other stylistic cues in the “Japonist” taste, taken directly from Japanese prints, in alluding to color as opposed to imposing it on the viewer through the printing.

Japanese prints were widely collected during the height of the Art Nouveau Era. When we observe closely, the uniform worn by the troops which Jeanne leads, in the title page illustration, is the then current army uniform (see illustration at the top of the post). France lost the Franco-Prussian War only 25 years earlier. This led to a loss of some important French territory in the East on the German border. It exalted a high price on French Moral. On the whole, the book presents a glorified view of France’s invincibility against invaders. Even today, the book is a highlight in the world of 19th Century children’s books.

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