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Les Chouans or La Bretagne en 1799

Honoré de Balzac, Racontés aux enfants par Madame Schlesser

Honoré de Balzac (English) (French) (1799-1850) was a French playwrght and novelist. Les Chouans (English), was first published in Paris by Urbain Canel in 1829.

This is the only children's book that Blampied illustrated for Nelson Éditeurs. It was intended to be one of a number of titles based on a series published by E.C. & T.C. Jack (which had merged with Thomas Nelson in about 1915) called Told to the Children. Each volume was to be 20,000 words in length. The French series was called Je Raconte.

Edwin Jack wrote to Blampied on 3rd February 1920:

I wonder whether you could undertake for us the illustration of a little volume for children Les Chouans by Balzac, retold for children. I am sending you the proofs of this book. We require eight illustrations in colour. They should be simple and such subjects should be selected as to interest a child. It is not of course a book for very young children. The size of the illustrations when reduced should be 4½” by 3¼”. I should be glad to see rough sketches.

Blampied accepted the commission and sent his rough sketches in about the middle of March because Jack wrote to him on 25th March 1920:

I think the drawings for Les Chouans are excellent. Number 4 will however be rather difficult to reproduce in three colours and so will number 5 as we never get a very good black without a fourth printing and a fourth printing is out of the question for this book. Perhaps you can modify these somewhat. We are agreeable to pay 5 guineas for these drawings and shall be glad to have finished drawings at your earliest convenience.

Five guineas (= £5 5s 0d) for each drawing in 1920 is equivalent to £200 in 2020 in terms of purchasing power, so Blampied earned 40 guineas (£42) or about £1,600 for the commission.

Blampied sent the final drawings on 12th April 1920. He wrote again in September asking to see a copy of the book and the French wrappers as I never see them in town. Jack wrote on 5th October 1920:

I am sorry to say that we have not yet printed Les Chouans drawings. I shall try to send you proofs of these when we do so but the book is kept back in the mean time, like so many more.

Jack wrote again in April 1921:

In reply to your letter I am sorry to say that we are placing very little work at the present time. Owing to the present condition of business we are drastically restricting our output. Before long, however, I may have a small commission to place with you. I am sorry that we have not yet got proof of Les Chouans illustrations.

Soon after this Blampied stopped working for Thomas Nelson and Sons, and there was no more correspondence with Edwin Jack.

The book is listed in a catalogue of Nelson's books published in 1923 in the series Je Raconte at a price of 6 Fr. It was listed at a price of Fr 9.50 in a catalogue issued in 1929, but not in the 1932 catalogue, so was in print for at least six years.

Seven of the eight illustrations for this book were sold at Christies, South Kensington on 3rd July 1998 in a sale of Modern Illustrated Books and Book Illustrations (lot 146, £3,450).

First edition

Bibliography code: NED-23.1

Publisher: Nelson Editeurs, Paris

Series: Collection Je Raconte

Catalogue: BR 256

Year: [1923]

Format: 8vo

Pages: pp 136 with a frontispiece and seven other illustrations in colours, two signed Blam, on unnumbered pages printed on coated paper, bound in

Binding: blue cloth with illustration pasted on with black border; title at top and collection Je raconte at base; title and publisher in black on spine

Size: 150 x 120 mm

Dust jacket signed: top of 'Blam', lower left

Internal illustrations: frontispiece and seven illustrations in flat colours, only illustration facing page 16 is signed Blam

Price: 6 francs (later Fr 9.50)

Printing history: only edition?

Printed by: not stated

Notes: The frontispiece illustration (104 x 82 mm) is pasted onto both the cover and the dust jacket, slightly smaller (101 x 74 mm).

Image of dust jacket

Full jacket of edition (click to enlarge)

Image of dust jacket

Cover of book (click to enlarge)