Pavillons des Puissances Maritimes, en 1819.
Anon. (Motte et Letronne, publisher).
( n.d. (Circa 1820)), n.p.
Oblong 4to, 31 cm. 60 hand-colored flag plates.
This is a unique French flag book – unique, because it is a combination of two rare French flag books. The original, with printed boards, title, and contents pages, “Pavillons des Puissances Maritimes, en 1819”, was published circa 1820 by Charles Motte. As originally configured, it contained 30 hand-colored lithographed flag plates. At some point in its history, this copy was taken apart and combined, or “extra-illustrated” with pages from another flag book, a work of similar size, period, and scope, with lithographs by Louis Letronne. The method of insertion was straightforward: a signature or part of a signature was removed from the second book. Pages of the removed section were glued together at the gutter margins, or glued to the gutter of a page from the original volume to ensure integrity. This new addition would then be stitched into the binding of the original, 1819, book. The flags and pennants pictured in the 1819 Motte book are arranged geographically, as are the insertions. For example, the “Contents” page of the Motte book calls for two pages of illustrations of the flags of Angleterre. In this copy, however, there are three pages of flags of Angleterre because a page of Letronne lithographs has been glued to the following page and the new unit sewn in. This copy contains all 30 of its original plates. In addition, there are another 30 plates from the volume of lithographs by Letronne. In every instance the added Letronne plates are flags used for signalling pilots or flags of countries not included in the Motte 1819 edition. In other words, the additions add substantially to the information contained in this “extra-illustrated” copy. Whitney Smith’s “Bibliography of Flags of Foreign Nations” sheds further light on this confused affair. Smith 85 is the listing for Motte’s 1819 “Pavillons.” He cites this 1819 edition, and another edition, Paris, 1837 (illustrator not mentioned), which, he says, has 61 plates (including lithographed text pages). My assumption is that the copy on offer here is a combination of the two editions, with material from the second, 1837, edition supplementing material in the 1819 edition. This theory is supported by the fact that the “Chili” flag plate, lithographed by Letronne, is dated 1837. All the plates are clean and the hand coloring is bright. There are circular stamps of the Port of Rochefort on the title and contents pages, and no other markings. The original printed boards are worn and scarred. Sewing is loose but holding. Some of the lithographs are signed in type by Motte or Letronne. Many have no attribution, but their format and typeface are identical to the signed Motte Letronne pages. See Polak 7393, Smith 85. Worldcat shows only six copies of the Motte book held institutionally. A list of contents is available.