Thais, Anatole France, trans. Robert B. Douglas, illus. by Martin van Maële (Charles Carrington, London, 1901 [first english translation, first edition, limited edition, one of 500])
6″x9.5″, x+304pp, cream boards, gilt titles on spine, deckled edges, Van Gelder hand-made paper, beautiful illustrations protected by tissue guard and printed in combination of black & brown ink, loose, not tipped in, just placed, soiled boards and endpapers, yellowing to some interior pages, good condition except soiling/foxing, binding/boards good.
Thaïs is a novel by French writer Anatole France, published in 1890. It is based on events in the life of Saint Thaïs of Egypt, a legendary convert to Christianity who is said to have lived in the 4th century. In the story, Paphnuce, an ascetic hermit of the Egyptian desert, journeys to Alexandria to find Thais, the libertine beauty whom he knew as a youth. Masquerading as a dandy, he is able to speak with her about eternity; surprisingly he succeeds in converting her to Christianity. Yet on their return to the desert he becomes fascinated with her former life. She enters a convent to repent of her sins. He cannot forget the pull of her famous beauty, and becomes confused about the values of life. Later, as she is dying and can only see heaven opening before her, he comes to her side and tells her that her faith is an illusion, and that he loves her.
Anatole France (François-Anatole Thibault 1844-1924) was a French poet, journalist, and novelist. He was a successful novelist, with several best-sellers. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters. He was a member of the Académie française, and won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament”. France is also widely believed to be the model for narrator Marcel’s literary idol Bergotte in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
Maurice François Alfred Martin van Miële (1863-5 – 1926), better known by his pseudonym Martin van Maële, was a French illustrator of early 20th century literature. Though he gained notoriety with his illustration for H. G. Wells in Les Premiers Hommes dans la Lune, and he worked as an illustrator for the Félix Juven’s French translations of the Sherlock Holmes series, he is now most widely renowned and mostly remembered for his erotic illustrations.