Paris : Librairie de Firmin Didot Frères, Fils et Cie, 1869–1873. Ten parts bound together in two volumes. Folio. [ii], viii, 60  pp., followed by 41 plates, each followed by a leaf of explanatory text; [ii] pp., followed by 59 plates, eac. FIRST EDITION. Half-title and title printed in red and black. With a total of 100 chromolithograph plates highlighted in gold and silver. Contemporary half-morocco and marbled boards, spines in compartments with gilt lettering and decoration; interior in excellent condition. Item #17799
First edition of the original parts of a monumental history of ornament. Published in ten installments between 1869 and 1873, this first iteration of L’Ornement polychrome (color ornament) is a visual record in 100 plates of the decorative arts from antiquity to the eighteenth century. The imagery presented is drawn from a wide array of various mediums, including woodwork, metalwork, architecture, textiles, painting, and pottery, and from cultures all over the world. The elaborate and vibrant chromolithographs took a team of engravers to execute that included Durin, Pralon, Painlevè, Sanier, Picard, Daumont, Dufour, Launay, and Bauer. The text from Racinet accompanying each plate provides a brief history, cultural context, and description. In the first volume there is a general introduction that provides a chronological and geographical overview of the plates with additional figures in black and white. Although based on past masterpieces of design, the fantastic reproductions here can be considered works of art in their own right. Indeed, for Racinet, the purpose of compiling past design excellence was not only to celebrate the masters but also to inspire an improvement of decorative arts in his own day and age. The work was such a huge success that a second series of 120 plates was published between 1885 and 1887, updated to include designs of the nineteenth century.
Racinet (1825–1893), himself an accomplished artist, is best known for publishing two major pictorial works on the history of design, this and Le costume historique (1888), while engraver and artistic director at the Parisian publisher Firmin Didot et Cie.