The Birds

Chansons des Oiseaux‘ published by L. Henri May, Paris, 1898. Cover and inside illustrations by Georges Fraipont.

Today’s post is not a usual story. Rather, it is a dreamy walk through enchanted sceneries of the kingdom of birds and a few fluttering bats. The very special songbook Chansons des Oiseaux was published in 1898 by the Société française d’éditions d’art L.-Henri May.
This monsieur Louis-Henry May may have given his venture a rather pompous title, but it well reflects the care and attention that was given to the book: the unusual oblong format, the peaceful cover image without room for names nor other text than the title, the decorative pastedown to finish the inside of the hardboard cover, and last but not least the delicate full-page illustrations by Georges Fraipont (1873-1912).

The cock on the front cover of 'Chansons des Oiseaux'
Detailed scan of the front cover (click for high resolution).

We have already written about ‘Recto Verso de Luxe‘ where sheet music is illustrated on both the front and back cover to form one large image when you fold open the sheet. This is one of these special covers.

illustration by Georges Fraipont for 'Chansons des Oiseaux'
Front and back cover of ‘Chansons des Oiseaux’, 1898 (illustration by Georges Fraipont)

The book collects 10 songs composed by Georges Fragerolles (1855-1920), who is famous for being the maestro of the Chat noir, having enlivened at the piano many shows of the Théatre d’ombres. The lyrics of four songs were written by Fragerolles himself.

The decorated pastedown on the cover interior of the book, designed by Jean Closset.

In our collection the name Fraipont is familiar. Gustave Fraipont (1849-1923) created a few sheet music covers. It was however his son Georges who illustrated this book. It is rather hard to discern the work of Gustave from that of Georges, as they both use ‘G. Fraipont’ as signature, and their style is comparable. Besides, Georges was also a composer. On at least one sheet music cover both father (illustrator) and son (composer) appear together. Yes, also with birds.

Tendresse sheet music by Georges Fraipont
Tendresse‘ by Georges Fraipont and Pierre Barbier. Published by Costallat & Cie (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Gustave Fraipont.

But let us continue with the book. Here is the title page.

The title page for the ‘Chansons des Oiseaux’.

And here follows your oxygen, your antidote to nastiness, negativity and gloom: ten lithographs, so delightfully charming that it is hard to imagine that they are but the result of a combination of ink, brush and paper.
Savour and rejoice!

'Mon Coq - Chanson rustique' illustrated by Georges Fraipont
‘Mon Coq – Chanson rustique’
'Les Mésanges Divines' by G. Fraipont
‘Les Mésanges Divines – Légende Mystique’
'Les Mouettes - Chanson de Mer' illustration by G. Fraipont
‘Les Mouettes – Chanson de Mer’
'La Chauve-souris' by Georges Fraipont
‘La Chauve-souris – Chanson d’Enfant’
'Voici l'Hirondelle - Aubade' by G. Fraipont
‘Voici l’Hirondelle – Aubade’
'Le Cygne - Stances' by Georges Fraipont
‘Le Cygne – Stances’
l'Oiseau Favori by G. Fraipont
‘L’Oiseau Favori – Romance dans le genre ancien’
'Le Perroquet - Rondo' by G. Fraipont
‘Le Perroquet – Rondo’
‘La Colombe – Romance’
'Le Rossignol - Sonnet' by Georges Fraipont
‘Le Rossignol – Sonnet’

 


The book was printed by R. Engelmann, Imprimeur-lithographe
(
16 rue Nansouty, Paris)

2 thoughts on “The Birds”

  1. Sooooooo beautiful. Thank you. Did I spot a green Collar Parakeet (without a collar) in the middle of busy Paris traffic, already in 1898 , on the Perroquet – Rondo picture?
    What made you change your mind that Georges Fraipont and not his father Gustave made these beautiful lithographs, as you stated in your other Collection Site? I found a cover for: Octave Uzanne: Son altesse la femme, also signed G.Fraipont, in a very similar, also Japanese style, dated 1885. Georges would have been 12 then; rather unlikely precocious.

    1. Dear Rein, it is such a pleasure to have attentive readers! Yes we changed our mind (and haven’t yet found time to update our website) on the authority of the Bibliothèque de France. See this notice that explains the authorship.
      Thanks for the info on ‘Son altesse la femme’. The cover is viewable on internet, beautiful! I hope for Georges that he was playing marbles at that age 🙂

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