J. A. Legrain at Upcoming Christie's Sale (July 13)

UPDATE: The volume sold for $138,776, just over its high estimate.

There's a book that caught my eye in an upcoming sale (#12139), "Valuable Books and Manuscripts."  Well, all the books there are just amazing! But there's one in particular that is fitting for this blog. 

Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé, illustrated by Henri Matisse and published by Albert Skira, 1932. Just an incredible book, extremely rare with extremely beautiful illustrations, and finely bound by a French modernist, J.A. Legrain (step-son of Pierre Legrain, who is commonly regarded as the better of the two, a heavyweight innovator of bookbinding design)."

J.A. Legrain.  

In retrospect, the design is rather subtle. But in context, at the time, this binding was very far away from more traditional "extra gilt" types of bindings from Zaehensdorf, Riviere, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, etc, whose work was ubiquitous a generation prior (around 1880 - 1910, and who are far too well represented in institutional collections). At and around this time (the 1930s, that is, and later), it should be important to note that the Legrain's were not alone. There was an innovative network of bookbinders that did exciting, new sorts of bookbinding design, just two of whom who are most famous might be Paul Bonet and Henri Cruezevalt.

Indeed, just the Legrain's are worthy of another post, for sure, but until then, here's just one other binding (of J.A.L.) from the collections of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford:

J.A. Legrain, mid-20th C. What makes this book so great is that it is so small! 185mm tall (about 7.25 inches). So the titling on the spine is small but crisp and clean, and balanced.

William Reese Company says the following in their catalog entry for the book reproduced below...

“Jacques Anthoine-Legrain (1907– ca. 1970) was Pierre Legrain’s stepson and assistant. Beginning in 1929 he continued the late master’s geometric aesthetic and gained high standing as a design binder in his own right” - Six Centuries of Master Book Binding at Bridwell Library.
— http://www.williamreesecompany.com/pages/books/WRCLIT59423/jacques-anthoine-legraine-binder/le-notaire-du-havre-by-georges-duhamel#sthash.VHDLJnNN.dpuf

Simple and tasteful, if quiet. Sans serif titling is blocky, clean, and stylish.