Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorite books. I have often lamented the lack of a premium fine press edition of it. Not long back I was whining about this to Sam Hessel, the owner of By the Book in Phoenix. He proceeded to show me an edition of Jane Eyre that proved the foundation of my lament incorrect. In fact, the edition he showed me, a 1923 special limited edition from the L’Imprimerie Nationale De France, exactly matches the vision of what I would like a fine press Jane Eyre to be.
Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell. It was first published in 1847. Bronte’s earlier works were often considered ‘course’ by critics, but Jane Eyre quickly became a classic and is now one of the most beloved works in the entire Western Canon. The novel was ahead of its time in its portrayal of a strong, passionate, self-reliant and thoughtful female character living in a patriarchal society. Morality, god, religion, social class and forgiveness are just some of themes explored. The novel weaves elements of Gothic and Romantic traditions and has a number of allusions to other famous works in literature. Charlotte Bronte’s sister, Emily Bronte, is famous for her great work Wuthering Heights. Another sister, Anne Bronte, was also an accomplished novelist and poet.
Ethel Gabain (1883-1850) was French-English artist who did oil portraits, lithographs and etchings. Her lithographs in this edition of Jane Eyre are simply beautiful, truly one of the best set of illustrations I have ever seen in a fine press book. She had often explored the theme of melancholic young females and so when in 1922, Edmond Paix, a French collector, commissioned a special edition of Jane Eyre from Monsieur Leon Pichon of Paris, he choose Gabian to illustrate. As you will see below, what an excellent choice.
L’Imprimerie Nationale De France did a marvelous job. The moroccan binding is perfect, with a stamped design evoking the setting of the story. The vellum which the text is printed on has held up very well, and is fantastic. The imagery and text pop from the pages. The illustrations, as mentioned above, are simply perfect. They are complimentary to the mood, setting and plot while still managing to be distinct as stand-alone works telling the story at an emotional level even if the words were to disappear. The end papers are very delicate and nice, the size and spacing of the work is large and comfortable. All in all, this is one fantastic production.
About this Edition
- Published February 1923
- Limited to 495 copies, 20 of which are hors commerce numbered I-XX
- Printed on vellum, from paper mills of Arches, specially manufactured with watermark ‘Jane Eyre’
- Seventeen original lithographs by Ethel Gabain printed in London on the presses of Vincent Brooks Day and Son under the supervision of the artist
- Copies’s 1-15 contain 5 additional lithographs printed by the artist herself and signed
- Garamond type
- Printing text executed after the model and under the direction of
Léon Pichon in Paris
- Bound in moroccan leather, gilt decorated board and spine, raised bands , top edges gilt. Japanese end papers.
- Mine is copy hors commerce number X, through the efforts of Mr. Edmond Peace
to be offered to a Mrs. W. T. Watts