A remarkable and unique work from MARBL‘s Paul Bernard Seydel Memorial Collection of works relating to Belgium is Théâtre, a collection of plays by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck. The three volume set was published in Brussels in 1901-1902 in an edition of 110 copies. While it’s an attractive publication there was nothing particularly special about it when it was first issued. What’s notable about MARBL’s copy is what was done subsequent to its publication.
The book was completely transformed inside and out. All three volumes were taken apart and almost every page was hand-illustrated with decorate borders, small and full page pictures reflecting events in the text. The illustrations are apparently all by an A. Holzbeeck who signed his or her name at the beginning of the first volume. Sadly nothing is known about this artist. Once the pages had been illustrated they were beautifully bound by the Belgian bookbinder Jacques Weckesser in full morocco with gilt and colored decorations.
We have no history for this work before it came to MARBL so the early history of the work has been lost. We would love to know why this special set of books was so lavishly created. Perhaps it was commissioned as a gift or perhaps it was created to be sold for profit. Sadly, we will probably never know.
Interior Decorated Pages of Théâtre