[Paris]: Published by the author, 1860-1861. Limited edition. Hardcover. Quarto (8 7/8 x 5 3/4"). 49, pp (Text),  leaves (Plates); 41, pp (Text),  leaves (Plates). Contemporary gilt- and blind-stamped burgundy morocco, with gold lettering and decoration to spines, and initials (H. P.) to front covers. All edges gilt. Dentelles. Decorative endpapers. Original blue wrappers bound in. Ribbon marker in each volume. Both title pages inscribed and signed by the author to Madame Selim Bey. Title page of first volume in red and black lettering, and title page of second volume in gilt and red lettering. Engraved frontispieces.
Léon Curmer (1801-1870) is a celebrated 19th-century French bookseller and publisher whose name remains attached to the outstanding quality of his illustrated works. Indeed, Curmer was one of the very first publishers to master the use of chromolithography to reproduce in full color old illuminated manuscripts, as well as the then new technique of photography.
The 43 unidentified poems featured in this set have been associated with 43 albumen prints of famous Old Master paintings housed in the most prestigious museums and galleries of Dresde, Paris, Montpellier, Florence and Rome.
Each painting seems to be in direct relation with the poem's subject. For instance, a poem introducing Jesus is facing an albumen print of Guido Reni's "Ecce Homo" (Vol. 1, page 13); a poem on Abraham's sacrifice is associated with a photograph of Andrea del Sarto's "Sacrifice of Abraham" (Vol. 1, page 19); another one on Virgin Mary and Child is facing Raphael's "Madonna della seggiola" (Vol. 2, page 13); a poem on Charles I and his family is associated with a photograph of engravings depicting the British monarch with his wife and children, after paintings by Anthony van Dyck (Vol. 2, page 35).
The painters featured in this work represent some of the most seminal figures in Western art history, such as Raphael, Titian, Murillo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein, Garofalo, and Veronese, among others.
Most of the poems reflect Christian faith and spirituality, the remaining few dealing with historical figures (Charles I) and mythological characters (Venus).The size of the albumen prints varies from 2 x 2 1/4" to 4 3/4 x 3 3/4".
Not in Vicaire. Vicaire (II, 1087 & 1088) only describes two later editions both published in 1863 by Auguste Aubry:
1) "Dresde - Rome - Montpellier," third edition limited to 209 numbered copies.  leaves, 93pp,  leaf (Text),  leaves (Hors-Text plates).
2) "Dresde - Paris - Rome - Florence - Montpellier," third edition limited to 109 numbered copies, and five on Holland paper.  leaves, IIIpp,  leaves (Text),  leaves (Hors-Text plates).
These two volumes contains the same photographs featured in our set as well as five extra.
The other only known self-published copy of our set is at the Bibliothèque Nationale, whose bibliographic record does not indicate the number of photographs.
Minor and sporadic foxing to very first leaves of second volume. Text in French. Bindings and interior in overall very good condition. vg. Item #41898