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Bottle made to look like a book, ca. 1830, with images of Benjamin Franklin and the distillery

[BOTTLE IN BOOK FORM].
Esprit de Francklin ... Le B[on].homme Richard.
Chalonnes sur Loire, Fremy frères, Bottrel et Cie., [ca. 1830]. Blown glass bottle made in the form of a book (15 x 10 x 3 cm plus 1.5 cm neck and lip). The "spine" is covered with gold-tooled red morocco, with 7 horizontal rolls dividing it into 5 fields plus a smaller 6th at the foot, the title and the French form of Franklin's pen-name in fields 3 and 4 and a decoration in fields 1, 3 and 5, the "boards" covered with paper, each with an lithographed rectangular decorative border enclosing an oval laurel wreath around an oval paper overlay with a lithographed view, that on the front board showing Benjamin Franklin and that on the back board showing a man in the distillery, each with accompanying texts above and below the wreath. The paper sides (but not their overlays) have a slight reddish cast.
€ 18,500
A lovely early example of a "blook" (an non-book object made to look like a book) or faux book, in this case a bottle for spirits that could be kept on a bookshelf where it would appear to be a book. The spine title, Esprit de Francklin was used (with k rather than ck) for an 1828 French collection of Franklin's Poor Richard writings (announced in Bibliographie de la France on 15 December 1827), but here it is a joke: "esprit" like the English "spirits" can refer to distilled alcoholic drinks. The lithographed image on the front of the bottle shows a three-quarter view, full-length portrait of Benjamin Franklin (apparently fairly young, since he is not fat and only slightly balding). The lithographed image on the back shows a man wearing an apron whom Gruel supposed was peeling potatoes, but there is distilling equipment on the floor behind him and on closer examination the supposed potatoes appear to be lemons, presumably for making spirits.
On 8 November 1822 the distillery Frémy frères & Bottrel received a 5-year brevet d'invention "pour des bouteilles en verre de diverses dimensions, ayant la forme d'un livre, et destinées à renfermer des liqueurs" (Bulletin des sciences technologiques I (1824), p. 384. They apparently continued to manufacture them for about 25 years. While the Franklin book bottle that Gruel describes and illustrates looks almost exactly like ours and its sides appear to be printed from the same plates, its engraving and spine consistently spell "Franklin" with a k and ours with a ck, and the engraved texts differ in content, arrangement and style. Gruel's lacks the 4-line verse on ours.
The sides have a rubbed spot at Franklin's feet and the feet of the man in the distillery, where the bottle has a slight bulge, and there are a few very small chips around the edges of the border, but the whole is still in good condition. A novelty faux book, a liquor bottle disguised as a book and an unusual French Benjamin Franklin item.
L. Gruel, “Recherches sur les reliures-bouteille”, in: Bulletin du bibliophile (1902), pp. 323-326 (a variant with the brevet on the front rather than the poem, front and spine illustrated); for blooks in general: M. Dubansky, Blooks: the art of books theat aren’t (2016).
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Americas  >  North America & Mexico
Book history, education, learning & printing  >  Bindings