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Little-Known Feminist History of the Paris Commune

Album gathering twenty-one original letters, documents, and photographs concerning the Paris Commune, signed by many leading participants.

[Paris, ca. 1870–1872]. Oblong folio (18 × 27.5 cm). Contemporary string-fastened gray cloth boards with hand-lettered title (“Album”) to front board; approximately fifty leaves, with documents affixed to first nine leaves, the rest blank. Stationer's label to inside of rear board: “À La Palette de Rubens/ Couleurs fines/ Ve de St Martin et Frère/ Papeterie Tableaux/ Rue de Seine 4, Paris.” Boards soiled; first several leaves disbound; contents partially numbered; one item removed, with traces of glue; else very good, in near fine recent half morocco slipcase and chemise with marbled-paper boards.

Evidently a work in progress, this album appears to have been compiled in commemoration by a witness of the events of 1870–71, and contains twenty-one documents, mostly by members and supporters of the Commune, but also by its opponents. It was apparently discontinued, as the leaves are only partially numbered and the last five documents are not affixed to the pages, and most of the notebook remains empty. Nevertheless, the album gathers several documents of great historic value, in particular those which shed some light on the lesser-known role played by women in the events of the Commune. Perhaps of greatest interest is a hand-written note by the so-called Pétroleuses, Élisabeth Rétiffe, Léontine Suetens, Josephine Michel Bocquin, and Eulalie Papavoine, on which they deny their innocence and beg for mercy in light of their children. Other documents include a pass by the Prefect of Police, General Louis Ernest Valentin (issued to the Belgian writer Charles Flor o'Squarr, later the author of a book about the Commune); a note in red pencil by Colonel Merlin, president of the Third Council of War (dated August 1871); a page-long letter by Emmanuel Gonzalès (1815–1887), the French novelist and playwright, to writer Gustave Graux; a short manuscript note by Félix Pyat, a French journalist and prominent member of the Commune who instigated some of its violent acts, including the toppling of the Colonne Vendȏme, to an editor of Vengeur, a journal published during the Commune; a three-page letter by Léonce Rigault; a letter to her lawyer by Marie Alexandrine Leroy (born Spinoy, 1850), who was sentenced to five years of exile in New Caledonia for her participation in the Commune; a photograph of French General Schmidt, dated December 1870; single-page letter by Colonel Edouard Louis Maxime Daniel de Boisdenemetz (1828–1894), president of the Fourth War Council; a handwritten note by General Joseph Vinoy (1803–1880), who led the occupation of the burning Tuileries Palace and the Louvre during the Commune; a letter, evidently a draft of a protest proclamation by the “Tricoteuses de Montmartre” (but issued “Au nom des Citoyennes Republicaines”) to be sent to the editors of the short-lived Commune-era satirical journal “Père Duchêne” and signed by Beatrix Excoffon; a letter by Colonel Henry, of the Army of the Commune; a hand-written note by Louis Nathaniel Rossel, the highest-ranking soldier to join the Commune, who was sentenced to death in November 1871; a letter by Simon Mayer, member of the Commune and sentenced to death for participating in the assassination of generals Lecomte and C. Thomas; a photograph of Charles Lullier, an important Commune activist who was sentenced to lifelong forced labor in Panama, signed and inscribed to Flor O'Squarr; hand-written note by Gaston Da Costa (1850–1909), a young Communard who served as deputy to Raoul Rigault, head of police; a hand-written note (signature illegible) concerning the Belgian writer Flor O'Squarr (not labeled); and five additional documents, which were never affixed to leaves: a) handwritten “carte pneumatique” by noted feminist and revolutionary Paule Mink (born Adele Paulina Mekarska, 1839–1901), written shortly before her death, regretting her inability to attend a reunion of former Communards; b) an undated invitation for one Reunion de la Fraction Revolutionnaire Radicale de la Commune de Paris, evidently sent to Benoit Malon (1841–1893), noted member of the Commune; c) hand-written letter to Benoit Malon by E. Teulière on behalf of the Commune de Paris, Commission du Travail; d) hand-written letter by H. Geremy, “ex membre de la commune de Paris”; and e) hand-written letter by known Commune member and suspected Petroleuse Madame Régère to her son, dated August 21.

Provenance: given the repeated mention of, and inscriptions to Flor O'Squarr (in some cases, his name is simply written on unrelated documents), we suspect that the album may have been compiled by Flor O'Squarr (real name Joseph Charles Flor), a Belgian journalist who was permitted to move throughout Paris and later authored at least one book about the period.

Book ID: 51668

Price: $12,500.00