Musee retrospectif de la classe 90. Parfumeries (matieres premieres, materiel, procedes et produits) a l'exposition universelle internationale, a Paris. Rapport de M. le comte Robert de Montesquiou
[Retrospective Museum of Class 90. Perfumeries (raw materials, equipment, processes and products) at the universal, international exhibition, in Paris. Report by Count Robert de Montesquiou.]
The bureaucratic-looking title is barred by a bold inscription in purple ink, in the unusual, flourishing handwriting of Robert de Montesquiou, a well-known, if misunderstood figure of the Belle Epoque.
Born in one of the oldest families of the French nobility, Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) was a prolific poet, novelist, art critic, chronicler, memoirist, as well as a designer, book collector and patron of the arts. He had ties with countless authors, artists, composers and craftsmen of the time. He was portrayed by numerous artists, including Laszlo, La Gandara, Whistler, and inspired characters in books by J. K. Huysmans, Jean Lorrain, and, most notably, Marcel Proust. His origins, lavish lifestyle and colorful personality contributed to his reputation as a 'dilettante', which prevented him from being recognized as the original and talented creator that he was. Montesquiou was a lifelong friend of Proust and served as a mentor before he was surpassed by his pupil, who borrowed some of his traits for his character, Charlus. Their correspondence, held in part in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library's Proust collection, is peppered with references to Montesquious many publications, most of which can be found at Illinois either in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research. While they were primarily acquired to support the Professor Philip Kolb research on Proust's correspondence, they constitute a rare collection of works by an author who was also a bibliophile and an important patron of binders and other book artists of his time.