Chalons-S-Marne: Imprimerie Lithographique Barbat, 1844. 8 1/4 x 11. 319 pages. Collation: (12), 11-107, (3), 113-148, (4), 149-315, (2) pages. A few preliminary pages appear shuffled in order--despite being in the original binding. Entirely lithographed in colors, silver, and gold on glazed white paper. These Gospels for Sundays and holidays are set within elaborate ornate frames or cartouches and presented as double spreads. Each dazzling spread has a different frame, which are very varied in design. Some frames are rococco. Some of the cruciform borders in the Passion section approach Art Deco. Some are irridescent, changing color. There is a great deal of silver & gold printing; the text is also printed in various single colors or gold. Publisher's thin enameled card covers printed lithographically in gold from transferred type. Some light foxing on preliminary leaves, very slight separation between some leaves, light cover soil, a very good copy of a truly stunning work. Scarce in the original wraps. Item #16482
To describe Louis Barbat ( 1795-1870) as the inventor of chromolithography* may be a reach too far. But it is certain that he experimented with and developed techniques of his own. Having studied drawing under the engraver Charles-Nicolas Varin, Barbat began experimenting with lithography in 1825, collecting ancient drawings, maps, and views of Chalon for his subjects. He and his son Pierre-Michael opened their shop in 1833. On January 3, 1834 Barbat received a patent to adapt a printing press to print several colors at once, with only one impression. Barbat's series of lithographed calendars began in 1834. In 1838 Barbat began producing, in a great number of designs, elaborate and richly colored & metallic wine labels and trade cards for the Champagne merchants. (The Sorbonne dictionary describes these in some detail.) The labels and cards were printed on white "porcelaine" paper in the Belgian manner. Barbat's entry for the 1839 Paris exposition, which included some of the title pages for the Evangiles were praised for the brilliance of the colors and the gold. Following on this success, after patient researches and a number of tries, according to Lhote, Barbat was able to produce the most varied colors in a full range of tones from the most vigorous to the sweetest, and by "d'ingenieux procêdees" achieved fused shades. At the 1844 Paris exposition Barbat was awarded the silver medal for Évangiles.
This copy of Évangiles is printed entirely upon enameled or “porcelaine” paper. Coated papers, which absorb less moisture during printing, give greater richness to printed colors. They were preferred for powdered bronze, silver, & gold as it was easier to brush powder away from unwanted areas. Unusual for the time, Barbat's paper was coated on both sides, allowing the beautiful double spreads. (Midolle also used coated paper, but on one side only; his plates are printed on the rectos only.)
Twyman discusses at length this “notable” and “extravagant quarto," which was said to rival the productions of Curmer. “All the text was transferred from modern-face types and printed lithographically with almost miraculous consistency. This in itself was a major technical achievement….” (p. 181) Twyman compares this to Didot’s attempt a few years earlier with Champollion’s Egyptian grammar, finding the transferring very variable in quality. In fact, half way through production Didot gave up the effort and reverted to letterpress.
* Il ne suffit pas de citer M. Barbat, qui ne fut simple lithographe, mais dont le nom tient à la fois à l'histoire à litterature locales, à l'archéologie et encore à découverte importante, à la naissance d'un art qui nous a valu des productions merveilleuses, c'est-a-dire à la chromolithographie, dont il fut l'inventeur. --Amadee Lhote, Histoire de l'imprimerie à Chalons-sur-Marne: notices biographiques et bibliographiques sur les imprimeurs, libraires, relieurs et lithographes (1488-1894) avec marques typographiques et illustrations. 1894 . Pp. 217-219.
Twyman, A History of Chromolithography pp. 166, 180-81, 191, 275-77, 432, 521; plates 136 & 355.
Sorbonne on-line Dictionnaire des Imprimeurs-lithographes du XIXe siècle. http://elec.enc.sorbonne.fr/imprimeurs/node/25137.