28.12.2017 PWT 52-2017 Albumen Metamorphosis: Ink Wash Drawings of Victor Hugo Replicated

Weekly transmission 52-2017 presents:

Toilers of the Sea (Les Travailleurs de la mer), a novel by Victor Hugo

After Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup on 2 December 1851 and his failed attempt to organize the Republican resistance, Hugo escaped on 11 December by train from Paris to Brussels, dressed as a printing house worker with fake ID papers under the name of Lanvin. On 9 January 1852, his name is on the main list of “Procrits”.

On 5 August 1852, Hugo arrived from Brussels to Jersey, after a transit in London.

“Les Travailleurs de la mer”, The Toilers of the Sea is a novel by Victor Hugo published in 1866. The book is dedicated to the island of Guernsey, where Hugo spent 15 years in exile. Hugo uses the setting of a small island community to transmute seemingly mundane events into drama of the highest calibre. Les Travailleurs de la Mer is set just after the Napoleonic Wars and deals with the impact of the Industrial Revolution upon the island.

The story concerns a Guernseyman named Gilliatt, a social outcast who falls in love with Deruchette, the niece of a local shipowner, Mess Lethierry. When Lethierry’s ship is wrecked on the Roches Douvres, a perilous reef, Deruchette promises to marry whoever can salvage the ship’s steam engine. Gilliatt eagerly volunteers, and the story follows his physical trials and tribulations (which include a battle with a Pieuvre, an octopus), as well as the undeserved opprobrium of his neighbours.”

This unpublished group of ink wash drawings replicas in albumen prints were made by Charles Michelez during Hugo’s life time, after his return to Paris, and after the celebrated illustrated edition of the Toilers of the Sea by François-Nicolas Chifflart (1869), with Deluxe copies where the drawings are reproduced in albumen prints.

More studies will precise what was the purpose of this “edition of one” of Hugo personal illustrations for his work, a few years before the gift of all his manuscripts and drawings to the BNF (1881) and the publication of the engravings by Fortuné Méaulle (1882).