Colonie Agricole et Penitentiare de Mettray
[Paris]: Imprimerie de Lemercier, [circa 1850]. Oblong folio. (11 x 15 3/4 inches). Lithographed title and 20 lithographed plates by Sauve, Tirpenne and Faivre after Thierry.
Publisher's burgundy patterned cloth stamped in blind and gilt, with a floral and arabesque design, gilt lettering on upper cover, expertly rebacked to style, yellow endpapers.
First edition of a very rare book of views of a French prison for juvenile delinquents.
Founded in 1840 by Frederic Demetz with just six inmates, the juvenile-only facilities of the Colonie Agricole et Penitentiare de Mettray was a revolutionary penal institution inasmuch as youth delinquents had hitherto been incarcerated with adult offenders. Demetz worked in conjunction with Guillame-Abel Blouet, perhaps better known for the final design of the Arc de Triomph, with a goal of actually rehabilitating young criminals rather than simply warehousing them. Set in an orderly open-air environment, the colony promoted manual labor and prayer, work, education and moral rectitude. Like many other idealistic attempts at penal reform, the once revolutionary methods at the Colonie Agricole et Penitentiare de Mettray devolved into often cruel and harsh punishment amidst deplorably overcrowded conditions. The full-page lithographs in this volume recount the various idealized activities and so-called schools within the colony, ranging from a general view of the colony, to church services, to sleeping quarters, to mess halls to agriculture and mining. This work, usually found with foxing and spotting, is here in remarkably good condition.
Cf. J. Bourquin et E. Pierre, 'Une visite à Mettray par l'image: l'album de gravures de 1844,' in "Sociétés & Représentations", 2004/2 (no. 18), p. 207-216.