Writer Francis Carco and artist André Dignimont produced countless books together, especially during the 1920s. Approximately ten examples of these are to be found in the Koopman Collection. Ces messieurs-dames from 1926 is one of them. The publisher isn't listed in this edition, but some sources assume that it may have been Ronald Davis. That is plausible, for the typographical style of this book is very similar to another edition in which Davis is identified clearly as the publisher. The front cover, the edition details and the book's arrangement- with a colour suite in the rear - are identical to another book by Carco, L'ami des filles…ou Chas-Laborde (1921), which was certainly published by Davis.
Ronald Davis was a small, independent publisher who published more than thirty books in small editions between 1920 and 1931. They were mostly literary works by Claudel, Jarry, Rimbaud and Valéry, and it is due to those Valéry editions that Davis wasn't completely forgotten and that his life story was researched. An enthusiastic American librarian and Valéry enthusiast, Roger Stoddard, was intrigued by this enigmatic publisher, and started investigating. After a few dead ends he came upon collector Jacques Guérin, who was able to tell him about Davis's history.
Madame de Rothschild
During World War I, the Jewish-born Englishman Ronal Davis wound up in France as a soldier, fell in love with a Frenchwoman and settled down in Paris, where he opened a little bookstore in 1920. One day Miriam de Rothschild (1885-1965) walked into the store: a stubborn, dominant and extremely wealthy lady, and a member of the famous family of bankers. She became a regular customer, and Davis purchased important acquisitions for her already impressive collection. Thanks to Madame de Rothschild, Davis's business picked up and his name became known. But his most important customer also set demands: she demanded that Davis move his bookstore close to her home. From that point on, the Faubourg Saint Honoré became his operating base.
Davis was also a collector himself, especially of Baudelaire, whose work he already loved before moving to France. Rothschild made it possible for him to establish a decent collection. Besides this hobby, the publication of books and the running of the bookstore, Davis was also involved briefly in the magazine Commerce, of which book dealer/publisher/socialite Adrienne Monnier was initially the driving force. She ceased her activities as editor and secretary after one issue- and an argument with Paul Fargue- and passed on the torch to Davis. This wouldn't last long, because on 26 August 1931 he died- most unheroically- of a blow from a golf club.
Zooming in on Ronald Davis's life brings to light a chain of book collectors. Collector Madame de Rothschild made it possible for book dealer Ronald Davis to build up a collection of his own (which was purchased by other bibliophiles after his death), and to publish books as well, which were collected in their turn by Francophiles like Louis Koopman, whose collection has now gained a place in the National Library of the Netherlands: a collection of collections.
|Description:||Ces messieurs-dames... ou Dignimont commenté / par Francis Carco ; [dess. d'André Dignimont]. - Paris : [Davis], 1926. - 29 p. : ill. ; 30 cm|
|This copy:||Number 00, copie for co-operators (this copie for Dignimont), on Lafuma paper|
|Note:||With an extra set of the illustrations in colour and with a dedication from the author|
|Bibliography:||Carteret IV-89 ; Édouard-Joseph I-414 ; Mahé I-403 ; Monod 2233|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm A 25|
- Sophie Levie, Commerce 1924-1932: Een internationaal modernistisch tijdschrift. [S.l., s.n., 1988]
- Laure Murat, Passage de l’Odéon: Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier et la vie littéraire is dans l’entre-deux-querres. Paris, Fayard, 2003
- Roger E. Stoddard, 'A Ronald Davis qui Vend le Pire et Garde le Meilleur pour soi',in: Gazette of the Grolier club, 43 (1991), p. 25-48
Half-title withdedication byFrancis Carco
Edition statement in*L’ami des filles *(Koopm A 146)
Title withillustrationby Jean-Gabriel Dignimont
Title of Paul Valéry,*Fragments sur Mallarmé. *Paris, Davis, 1924 (Koopm A 492)