Rare 1859 French Boxed Set 'Les Arts & Metiers'

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24" x 19". The boxed set contains an assemblage for displaying and arranging the "arts et metiers" (the arts and trades) of Paris of the mid-19th century. The lid of the box has a large lithograph portraying 12 people at a Paris toy store where the boxed set is for sale; the people (sales clerks, customers, eager children) are examining the set and its many possible arrangements. Inside the box are arranged an extraordinary number of wooden blocks, each with lithographed scene portraying a Parisian store front displaying objects for sale; there are 44 different store fronts including food shops for baked goods, wines and meats, as well as shops for milliners, clock-makers, novelties, lingerie, women's fashions, decorative objects, coiffeur, and other fineries. Many of the shops are representative of mid-19th century life such as "Ecrivain Public" that offers services such as translating all the languages of France. Also included are numerous blocks with lithographed detail of architecture and 32 die-cut figures of various Paris citizens in the acts of buying and selling from the shops, conversing, traveling, eating, and such. The set is remarkably preserved with slight spotting on the lid, the contents virtually pristine. The purpose of the set was to allow various arrangements of streets and markets, as well as instructing children in the various occupations of the time. Each lithograph was made from an original tinted illustration with outstanding and humanistic detail; the lithographs are enhanced with original varnish highlights. One block is signed and dated by the illustrator, "Bommier 1859", the lid is signed Bommier, edited by H. Rousseau and lithographed by H. Jannin. An altogether extraordinary, complete and wonderfully preserved mid-century French toy that truly exemplifies the "promises of Paris".
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