The Martin Stone collection of French illustrated poetry, 19th-20th centuries at Cambridge

Cambridge University Library has just acquired a collection of about 230 French illustrated poetry books ranging from 1841 to 1970 and beyond. They were collected by Martin Stone, an English guitarist as well as rare books dealer and collector who passed away in 2016. The collection consists mainly of outstanding first editions, many of which printed on special paper and containing signatures and dedications by and to prominent figures of the Parisian art world (Cocteau, Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin etc.). It is very strong from a literary perspective, with major or lesser-known French and Belgian poets, ranging from Symbolist and Decadent writing to the 20th century Modernist avant-gardes, which reverberated across the globe.


Poèmes de Jean Lorrain. Paris: Léon Grus, 1896. Sheet music. Composer Gabriel Pierné. Cover by Lucien Métivet.

The collection includes appealing editions illustrated by famous engravers like Odilon Redon or Félicien Rops. Text and image relations have become the focus of much academic interest in recent decades, and the inscriptions to the early owners of the books are revealing about the transitional literary and artistic networks of the time.


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Carroll, Lewis, La Chasse au Snark une Agonie en Huit Crises… traduit pour la première fois en français par Aragon. Chapelle-Réanville (Eure): The Hours Press, 1929. First edition in French, printed by Aragon and Nancy Cunard. Later inscribed by Aragon to singer and composer Guy Béart, with a personal reference to Aragon’s wedding to Elsa.

A few items are very rare and do not feature in the BnF (or any other public library) catalogue. Women poets and artists (Anna de Noailles, Valentine Hugo, Andrée Chedid…) are very well represented in the collection. In addition, many books refer to LGBTQ+ issues (Renée Vivien, Jean Lorrain, Claude Cahun’s partner), will be a very a very good ground for innovative Queer approaches to this collection.


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Mallarmé, Stéphane. Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. Paris: Nouvelle Revue française, 1914. First book edition of a ground-breaking poem first published in May 1897 in the journal Cosmopolis.

The Martin Stone collection of 19th-20th century French illustrated poetry will be used in relation with the teaching of French poetry in the Medieval and Modern Languages faculty undergraduate curriculum (‘Revolutions in Writing’ course on Baudelaire), through Mallarmé (with the first book publication of the famous Coup de dés poem, or the unique edition of his Oxford / Cambridge Lecture, with the bookplate of Herbert Charles Pollitt by Aubrey Beardsley), Verlaine, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Gilbert-Lecomte (Proust’s mentor Robert de Montesquiou) etc.


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Laurencin, Marie. Petit Bestiaire, poèmes inédits avec deux lithographies inédites de l’auteur. Paris: François Bernouard, 1926. Presentation copy to the Parisian gallerists, Juliette and Paul Guillaume.

The collection has the potential to become a research focus for French final year optional dissertations and become a case study within the MPhil in European and Latin American Culture, Centre for Gender Studies, Queer Studies, and relevant MPhils in the English Faculty. Several academics across the university of Cambridge (Hugo Azerad, Edmund Birch, Jean Khalfa, Claire White…) are keen on exploiting the research potential of the collection and promoting its historical, literary and artistic value.


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Mallarmé, Stéphane. Oxford, Cambridge. La Musique et les lettres. Paris: Perrin, 1895. Bookplate by Aubrey Beardsley for Herbert Charles Pollitt. Mallarmé had been invited to Oxford (Taylorian association) and Cambridge (Pembroke College) to give lectures in 1894.

The Martin Stone collection will also be a very good tool for outreach. It has very strong potential for an exhibition focusing on the most interesting items and supplemented by other well-chosen items from the UL collections. The Decadent, fin de siècle, Modernist movements quickly spread around the world (Latin American, China, Africa etc), and this collection crystallizes highly interesting authors from  the margins as well as from the centre of the artistic capitals (Paris, Brussels) of the time.

Tanning, Dorothea. Demain. Paris : Georges Visat, 1964. First edition, signed by the author, number 3 of 10 copies hors commerce on Japon nacré. Not in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Cambridge University Library’s selection of French resources and critical works has been very good and sustained, and the purchase of this collection strengthens existing rare books holdings, including the collections of French writers Anatole France and Paul Claudel (with poetry by Claudel and Segalen). French illustrated poetry is also an important component of the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection 1944-1946.


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Hugnet, Georges. Pablo Picasso, illustrator. Non Vouloir. Paris: Jeanne Bucher, 1942.

The Martin Stone collection is a very good complement and addition to the French holdings of the UL Waddleton illustrated books collection, the Alan Bowness 20th century art history donation, the Patrick Kearney donated collection of Erotica, and collections of French livres d’artistes such as the ‘Musée de Poche’ series recently donated to the UL by the publisher La Diane française. Collaborations with Trinity College Wren Library (with its Nicholas Kessler artist books’ collection), Emmanuel College (C.A. Hackett collection of French books, centred on Rimbaud and 19th c. French poets), and the Fitzwilliam Museum also seem particularly fitting.


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Mourgue, Gérard. Wilfredo Lam, illustrator. Chant d’Amour d’Evanthia. Bagnols/Cèze: Librairie Le Pont de l’Epée, Guy Chamberland, 1982. First edition, with author’s inscription to poet and literary critic André Marissel.

Do not hesitate to get in touch about this poetry collection. Before its cataloging takes place, we are happy to provide a list and description of the titles in the Martin Stone collection.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi

4 thoughts on “The Martin Stone collection of French illustrated poetry, 19th-20th centuries at Cambridge

  1. To my shame I’ve only just caught up with this collection.
    Thanks for the considerable work that you have done on this so far. Your presentation of the collection and your initial explanations and observations have been exemplary. I look forward to seeing the collection in the fullness of time.

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