Our Notes & References
“The most popular and finest of all [Loti’s] writings” (Gosse): an excellent example of the “edition de luxe” of the first edition, limited to 235 copies in large octavo format, this copy being #27.
With an unusual high quantity of different states of the plates, and retaining its bright orange publisher’s wrappers in fresh condition.
A classic of French literature, Pêcheur d’Islande narrates about the romantic but inevitably sad life of Breton fishermen who sail each summer season to the foggy, ice-laden waters of Iceland. The French naval officer Pierre Loti (1850–1923) pays a personal tribute in this novel to the memory of his brother Gustave, a marine surgeon who fell ill in Cochinchina and died at sea. To this prose, Loti adapted some of the impressionist techniques of contemporary painters, especially Monet, combining them with elements of naturalism and exoticism.
Loti wrote the novel from 1884 onwards in his estate of Rochefort, continued in the Far East and completed in Rochefort in March 1886. It first appeared in La Nouvelle revue de Juliette Adam from 1 April to 1 June, and then as a separate book in 1886. When published, Pêcheur d’Islande was criticised by Maupassant, but praised by Henry James, Octave Mirbeau and the Breton poet Anatole Le Braz. Literary critic Edmund Gosse characterised it as “the most popular and finest of all [Loti’s] writings” and Loti himself as “one of the most original and most perfect French writers of the second half of the 19th century”. The novel met a significant success: a dozen of editions were published over the next several decades.
This deluxe tirage de tête of only 235 copies was printed on hollande paper with fine illustrations usually in multiple states, different in each copy; the other copies were printed on ordinary paper in 12mo format.
The present copy has the largest number of impressions we found at auctions in the last decades: most of the other copies list only two or three states of engravings whereas this one shows four states of the frontispiece, and the illustrations in five to nine states.
Provenance Waldfried (armorial ex-libris bookplate on upper endpaper).
Bibliography Vicaire V, 404. Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, “Pierre Loti”, by Edmund Gosse.