FRÉMAUX, Léon J. (1821-1898)
New Orleans Characters
[New Orleans]: Peychaud & Garcia, 48 Camp Street, 1876. Folio. (13 11/16 x 9 3/4 inches). Lithographed and mounted on cloth guards throughout, title with oval hand-coloured vignette, 16 hand-coloured plates, each with title beneath.
Publisher's half black morocco and pebbled cloth covered boards, lettered in gilt on the upper cover. Housed in a dark red morocco backed box.
Provenance: Ventress Jones (presentation copy inscribed by Fremaux)
A classic American colour-plate book which offers a new and improved take on the twin European traditions of suites of plates of regional costume and street cries: presentation copy inscribed by the author.
"Costume books and illustrations of typical trades and occupations, so common in European color plate books, are comparatively rare in America. This book of New Orleans street characters may be the best example of the genre printed in the United States" (Reese). It clearly helped that Frémaux, a Louisiana native, empathized with his subjects. He has managed to truly capture not only the individuals but also to embody the varied and colourful character of the city of New Orleans itself. His training as an engineer and cartographer will have served Frémaux well when it came to recording the details that make an image memorable: the pearl earring of Rose Nicaud, the first coffee vendor in New Orleans (see the final plate); the drummer's toeless shoe (plate 6 of the man who drummed up business for auctioneer, Placide J. Spear). Three of the plates are of characters from the "professional" classes and are probably all portraits of individuals that their contemporaries would have recognized: an early owner has noted in pencil that the first plate 'A Cotton Classer' is of 'Jules Lemairé', whilst the second plate ('Sugar broker & Weigher') is apparently a double portrait of 'Buck Miller' and 'O'Connell.' The remaining plates are all of street vendors or workers, and, whilst they are all drawn from life, they are more generic in nature - the two exceptions of identified individuals are the drummer and coffee seller already mentioned. The titles beneath each plate are in English (7) or English and Louisiana patois (5). Each plate is numbered, nine with a small number in the lower left corner of the image, but 7 have the number incorporated into the image itself; '1' is stamped onto the cotton bale; '2' is on the weighing machine; '10' is on the side of the hand-wagon, etc.
Bennett p.44; Howes F362; Reese Stamped with a National Character 93.